Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday that any presidential candidate who loses his home state will be “very badly weakened” – including himself and Mitt Romney.
Romney has been campaigning heavily in his home state of Michigan, which holds its primary Feb. 28. Gingrich has been campaigning in Georgia, the state he represented in Congress, which votes on Super Tuesday, March 6.
Neither state is a sure win for the candidates. Romney is facing a strong challenge from former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, while Gingrich has lost momentum after lagging far behind Romney and Santorum in several nominating contests.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,’’ Gingrich said a loss for Romney in Michigan would undermine a rationale for his campaign – that the former Massachusetts governor can win the election.
“He’s not a candidate of ideas, he’s not a candidate of ideology. He was the candidate because he was the inevitable winner,” Gingrich said. “If he loses his home state. … I don’t see what he says the next morning to his donors to stay in the race.”
But Gingrich would not commit to dropping out if he were to lose Georgia. “Given the chaos of this race I’m not willing to say anything,” he said. But he added, “I think it is extraordinarily important to carry your home state. It has all sorts of underlying impact if you don’t.”
Gingrich said if any candidate loses his home state, he will have “a very, very badly weakened candidacy.” Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania votes April 24. The primary date in Texas, Representative Ron Paul’s home state, is up in the air due to the inability of the state Legislature to get redistricting maps approved by the courts.
Gingrich has been up and down in the polls in a volatile Republican race. Asked about his current third place status in the polls, Gingrich said he believes it is because of “$20 million of Romney negative ads.” (A super-PAC supporting Romney attacked Gingrich with major ad buys before the Iowa, South Carolina, Florida contests, and is now attacking Gingrich in Georgia and elsewhere.)
Gingrich said he plans to continue campaigning on “big breakthrough ideas” like increasing domestic energy production and eliminating the capital gains tax.
Gingrich’s campaign has been funded in large part by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his family. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who live in Las Vegas but have a home in Newton and a corporate office in Needham, gave $11 million to a super PAC supporting Gingrich. Adelson is said to be willing to give another $10 million.
The men are old friends and both are pro-Israel. On Fox News, Gingrich gave the clearest rationale yet for why Adelson is so supportive of his campaign: “Sheldon Adelson is desperately worried about an Iranian nuclear weapon, and he is desperately worried about the survival of Israel,” Gingrich said.
“I am the strongest candidate on foreign policy and the strongest candidate on national security. … I think we should be worried about the Iranian nuclear weapon, and we should do everything we can to ensure Israel survives.” Gingrich said he and Adelson have a “very open relationship.”
Gingrich spent Saturday and Sunday in Georgia, and is campaigning Monday and Tuesday in Oklahoma. He said he also plans to campaign in Arizona, Washington, Idaho, and California this week.
Asked about rumors that if Romney loses Michigan, Republicans will pull in a new candidate – such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush – Gingrich said he has no problem with any candidate who wants to run. But, he added, the campaign trail is “really hard.” “Nobody’s going to show up and become superman or superwoman,” he said.
Shira Schoenberg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.