In Newt Gingrich’s thinking, the only primary that matters today is Delaware. If he can pull off a win he believes he can take the fight to North Carolina, which votes on May 8 and is the state that gave Ronald Reagan a new lease on life way back in 1976. If Gingrich loses badly in Delaware, even his closest advisers acknowledge the campaign is over.
Either way, Gingrich’s advisers say don’t expect Gingrich to make a decision on dropping out today. He plans to make his next move later this week after a series of already planned campaign events in North Carolina. If he wins Delaware he goes to North Carolina to continue his super-long-shot campaign. If he loses Delaware he goes to North Carolina to reassess and almost certainly drop out.
For Gingrich, North Carolina has great symbolic value. It was there in 1976 that Ronald Reagan, after a string of six losses to Gerald Ford, managed to revive his near-dead campaign with a victory that stunned President Ford.
On the strength of his North Carolina victory Reagan went on to battle Ford all the way to the Republican convention in Kansas City, Mo. Reagan, of course, ultimately lost the nomination to Ford, but Reagan won the hearts and minds of the conservative movement.
The way Gingrich sees things now, North Carolina is the place where he can bring his campaign back to life for a third time. His advisers point out that the Gingrich Super PAC still has roughly $5 million available to spend on television advertising. If the Gingrich campaign has any sign of life at all after Delaware, they expect Winning Our Future to unload most of that money in North Carolina.
Flashback: Here is an ABC archive report from August of 1976 on the lead-up to the 1976 Republican convention: