Rick Perry spent something like $4 million in Iowa. Michele Bachmann spent about the same — if not more. Yet they are both getting creamed tonight. Spending $4 million to get 10% of the vote (where Perry is now) or 6% of the vote (where Bachmann is in early returns) is horrendously embarrassing. Meanwhile, not a single national poll or poll in New Hampshire or South Carolina in recent weeks shows any significant support for either of them going forward. All they can do, from now on, is be spoilers.
Both ought to withdraw with dignity, and let conservatives coalesce around Santorum. I know it’s hard to put forth so much effort and then quit after one state, but the political realities are that neither one has a prayer going forward. Not a prayer. Perry, in particular, has seemed to take personal umbrage at Mitt Romney’s record and his personality. Perry should want Romney to lose. The only way to help ensure that is for Perry to withdraw. It would make him more of a hero to conservatives to do so than not to do so, and it would set him up for a nice Cabinet post — something that won’t happen if he continues to show just how weak he is by continuing to compete but losing badly.
Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich showed, as he did repeatedly in the 1990s, that he cannot take a punch. Indeed, he has a horrible glass jaw. Not only did he drop by a massive amount in the past three weeks, but he did so without any grace or graciousness. He whined about being attacked; he flat-out called Mitt Romney a “liar.” If this is the big tough guy who can take on Barack Obama, Obama can play golf for the next 10 months and coast to re-election, because Gingrich will be easy to pound into submission with just a few well-aimed TV ads.
Sure, Gingrich can point to national polls showing him still doing well nationally — but he now has established himself as a major loser in a state he was leading by a large amount just 3 or 4 weeks ago. Where will he get the money or the organization to continue? How can he possibly win? He can’t.
But he does seem to like Rick Santorum. Alone among major contenders, Santorum hasn’t attacked Gingrich. They repeatedly traded compliments during the debates. Gingrich could give Santorum a huge boost against the man, Romney, against whom Gingrich’s anger seems to be burning with a fierce and broiling flame.
Conservative movement leaders should be on the phone first thing in the morning to talk to these three candidates and reason with them. If they don’t, Mitt Romney will continue in the cat-bird’s seat. For Romney fans, this would be a great thing. For all the anti-Romneyites out there, it would be a sickening result.
UPDATE: After watching Gingrich’s remarks just now, I wish I had better modulated my commentary on his status in the race. I still think he ought to withdraw. But I myself should have been more gracious about it.