EL MONTE, CA — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich became visibly agitated with reporters while fielding questions about his struggling campaign after a Hispanic Leadership Event at the Cielito Lindo Restaurant.
While the Speaker often uses his admonishment of the media as a personal strength, it’s clear that the continued questions over the legitimacy of his candidacy following a string of primary losses (and his third place finish at the symbolic CPAC straw poll) have started to take their toll on Gingrich.
The Speaker fended off questions on his earlier calls for Rick Santorum to drop out of the race, reversing previous comments that the former Pennsylvania senator should bow out. When asked if his comments toward Santorum meant that he himself should now get out of the race, Gingrich replied, “He decided that that wasn’t a good idea and he was right.”
When asked about the National Review’s latest piece, which asks Newt to drop out, the Speaker responded:
“The National Review wanted me to drop out in June. Look, you guys go running around picking up the same people who said I was dead in June. Who then said I was dead after Iowa. You know, twice I’ve led in the Gallup polls. Now that strikes me as a fairly real candidacy and I did both of them spending radically less money than Mitt Romney. I’m very happy to be competing. We are going to be compete on things like $2 gallon gasoline. We’re going to compete on getting unemployment back to four percent. We’re going to compete on balancing the federal budget. We’re going to compete on having a personal social security savings account for young people. I think on every one of those I am bolder and more willing to outline a better future than either Santorum or Romney and let’s see how it plays out. I’m very happy to continue this campaign based on real solutions…”
While Gingrich said that it would be “absolutely” out of the question he would drop out before Super Tuesday, it’s usually never a good sign to have to continually validate your campaign to the media. I’ll be posting video soon, but Gingrich appeared particularly defensive, as he fought to get back to the core message points of his campaign. Newt has always been about bold ideas and it’s clear that the media’s focus on the horserace have blocked the Speaker from getting that message out.
Gingrich is hoping that a strong showing in friendly southern states on Super Tuesday will bolster a comeback to capture the nomination. But will the media, and voters, already have written him off by then? How can Newt break through?
UPDATE: Here’s video of the exchange: