Newt Gingrich has hinted that he may abandon his bid for the Republican presidential nomination if he does not win today’s primary in Delaware, where he campaigned extensively.
The former House speaker told NBC News on Monday that he would “reassess” his candidacy based on the results of Delaware’s 17-delegate, winner-take-all contest.
Along with New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, it is one of five states holding primaries today. Gingrich and the other remaining trailing candidate, US Representative Ron Paul, face the strong possibility of being swept by frontunner Mitt Romney - further widening the presumptive nominee’s delegate lead over them.
“I think we need to take a deep look at what we are doing,” Gingrich said. “We will be in North Carolina (Tuesday) night, and we will look and see what the results are.”
Gingrich has said repeatedly that he plans to stay in the race until the Republican National Convention in August, or until Romney collects enough delegates to win the GOP nomination outright.
His stated ambition has been to hold the former Massachusetts governor short of the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch and to earn the Republican nomination at an open convention in Tampa, Fla.
“Governor Romney is clearly the frontrunner, but that doesn’t mean he is inevitable,” Gingrich told a gathering of about 50 people at the Republican Party’s Delaware headquarters on Monday. “It is very dangerous for frontrunners to start behaving like they are inevitable because the voters might decide that’s not so true.”
But Gingrich has tempered his defiance recently, pledging to back Romney wholeheartedly if the former governor does win the nomination.
He also has been questioned about the public expense of maintaining his Secret Service detail despite the longshot nature of his candidacy, and has had to confront the reality of his campaign’s weakened financial state.
Federal Election Commission filings showed his campaign had only $1.2 million cash on hand at the end of March and $4.3 million of debt. Romney, meanwhile, has almost 10 times as much cash on hand, no debt, and more than five times as many delegates.
Gingrich told NBC on Monday that he is optimistic about his chances in Delaware: “We have got really positive responses, and I would hope we would do well here — either carry it or come very, very close.”
But even if Gingrich were to win Delaware, he likely would not make up ground on today. Romney is favored in all the other states voting today.
Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.