Gingrich Camp: Picturing Newt's Convention Ascension

PHOTO: Newt Gingrich gives a thumbs up sign to supporters after speaking to the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce at the Vestavia Hills Country Club March 13, 2012 in Birmingham, Alabama.

If it were up to Newt Gingrich, when Republicans gather for the 4-day party that is their national convention in August, the GOP will remain divided.

Having cut one-third of his staff after poor primary contests and lackluster fundraising, the long-shot candidate's hopes of becoming the Republican nominee for president now rest entirely on the other candidates. Namely, that no other candidate gets enough delegates to lock in the nomination.

That scenario will open up the possibility of a "brokered" convention in August, one in which any of the candidates can win.

Slim though the odds of that happening may be, a busted convention could deepen the wounds opened by two key primary voting groups: those who like Mitt Romney and those who think he's too moderate for the Republican Party.

Yet Gingrich's supporters think that a convention fight would not only help the former House speaker, but that it would even help the party by stirring up more interest and enthusiasm for the outcome.

"Hopefully, we're looking at a convention that has a little more excitement than every past one that I've been to," said former Rep. Bob Barr, who has endorsed Gingrich. "You've got these conventions, and everybody knows exactly what's going to happen, and it's just an opportunity to hang out with people, and that's fine, and hear some speeches, some of which are better than others. But, you know, there's no excitement and very little interest beyond anointing a predetermined candidate."

Right now that predetermined candidate would be Romney. Though some Republicans have questioned the establishment candidate, given what seems to be his inability to lock up the nomination quickly and fend off fringe candidates like Rick Santorum, the former Massachusetts governor's path has certainly become clearer after recent wins.

His conservative challengers have still vowed to block him at every turn, and right-wing figures -- as well as more and more tea party members -- have smiled at the idea of a convention in which Romney hasn't collected the 1,144 delegates needed to anoint him as the general election candidate.

"The focus that we've traditionally annunciated for a convention — 'Oh, it's time to come together, we need to smooth things over, we can't have any dissension' — is perhaps some of the reason that in recent elections, we haven't done that well," Barr said. "We still have very much an open field out there. ... A lot of Republicans don't feel comfortable with Romney as the nominee."

Unfortunately for Gingrich, a lot of Republicans actually do feel comfortable with Romney, at least those in the powerful establishment that has been challenged by the tea party and social conservatives like Santorum.

In a CNN poll this week, 60 percent of Republicans said Gingrich should drop out. Romney was a clear favorite, winning 36 percent in the survey, 10 points higher than his closest opponent, Santorum. Gingrich's allies, meanwhile, use similar figures to argue that a majority of Republicans don't want Romney (Gingrich got 15 percent and Ron Paul got 17 percent).

"There will be a crazy fight if Romney doesn't get enough votes, but it looks like he's going to," Kevin Hassett, who was John McCain's senior economic adviser in the 2008 campaign, said of the convention in Tampa.

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