Sometime next week, the long, slow death of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign will finally come to an end. After a year of dizzying highs and terrifying lows, Gingrich is throwing in the towel and suspending his bid for the White House after winning two states and several more presidential debates.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus perhaps summarized Gingrich’s impact on the race best.
“I don’t know that. I just don’t know right now,” he told TPM on a conference call when asked what, if anything, we’ll be talking about in the fall thanks to Gingrich.
“I will tell you that I have a lot of respect for Speaker Gingrich, I think he’s got a lot of great ideas,” Priebus said. “I suspect he’s going to be very helpful to the party moving forward and obviously I would suspect as he’s stated he’s going to be very helpful to Gov. Romney but as far as any more specifics — I mean who knows, I can’t answer that right now.”
Other observers were more direct when it comes to what Gingrich’s long campaign has left on the table for the general.
“He was a candidate, but this is it, unfortunately for him,” said Hessy Fernandez, a Republican consultant who worked with the John McCain campaign in 2008.
Others believe Gingrich’s campaign won’t be lost to history. Gingrich insisted throughout his campaign that he should be the nominee because he was the candidate best-equipped to debate President Obama during the general election. Gingrich’s skill on the debate stage was the catalyst for his stint as national frontrunner. An appropriate consolation prize: Many Republicans believe Gingrich contributed to the campaign by sharpening Romney’s debate skills as he struggled to rise to meet Gingrich.
“I think Speaker Gingrich made an impact with his ability to articulate voter angst and frustration with what’s happening with Obama,” said Chad Connelly, chairman of the South Carolina GOP. Gingrich won South Carolina, the third primary contest, elevating him to Romney’s onetime most serious rival, a distinction that faded after Romney trounced him in the Florida primary.
“The legacy for Speaker Gingrich will be not only did he make everybody better on the speaking side and the debating side, but he brought up some stuff and he really connected,” Connelly said.
Ford O’Connell, a D.C.-based unaligned Republican strategist said Romney will be a more polished debater this fall, thanks to Gingrich.
“He made Romney a better debater, trust me,” O’Connell said. “Let me tell you something: Romney still has some stuff to work on in debates and obviously Obama at this juncture is a superior debater but really Gingrich taught Romney how to debate and how to be more presidential.”