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Gingrich's Unconventional White House Bid: A Retrospective

Newt Gingrich speaks at Marquette University in Milwaukee on March 29.
Rick Wood
Newt Gingrich speaks at Marquette University in Milwaukee on March 29.

Newt Gingrich has experienced a long slide since March 6, when he won Georgia's Republican primary. It was his second and final victory of the campaign season, but Gingrich fought to stay in the race through a Southern strategy that never caught on.

On Wednesday, a source close to the Gingrich campaign told NPR that he would officially suspend his campaign next week, and was likely to formally endorse Mitt Romney.

Gingrich announced his run nearly a year ago, last May, on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

It wasn't long before Gingrich ruffled feathers, even those of his fellow Republicans. On NBC's Meet the Press, he criticized Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, which included a proposal to overhaul Medicare, as "right-wing social engineering."

The campaign had a shaky start. Most of his staff resigned in June, citing Gingrich's lack of commitment and a Greek Isles cruise he took with his third wife, Callista.

But the former House speaker was able to hang on through the summer and over a long series of debates, where he took on the roles of party statesman, partisan brawler and media critic.

By December, with other candidates struggling or gone, Gingrich surged in the polls. On ABC News, Gingrich proclaimed: "I'm going to be the nominee. It's very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee."

Gingrich ran against big government and went on the attack. One of his favorite lines was calling President Obama a "food stamp president."

Gingrich told audiences: "I would like to be the most successful paycheck president in history."

Many people thought Gingrich was using code language to talk about the first African-American president. Others said it was the recession that led to a record number of people using food stamps.

Another controversial Gingrich idea: reforming labor laws so children in poor communities could work. Gingrich said kids could get experience as janitors in their schools.

"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works," Gingrich said during a campaign stop in Iowa. "They have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of, 'I do this and you give me cash,' unless it's illegal."

After big losses in Iowa and New Hampshire in January, and questions about Gingrich's character, including extramarital affairs, he won big in South Carolina on Jan. 21.

That victory came after an attack on Romney's business career as head of Bain Capital. Gingrich was assisted by Winning Our Future, a superPAC supporting him that produced a 28-minute video called "King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came To Town."

It includes this claim: "For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began ... when Mitt Romney came to town."

Many suggest it was the superPAC and millions contributed by casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam — $20 million, in all — that kept Gingrich in the race. But Romney and the superPAC supporting him spent millions attacking Gingrich in Florida, and it was Romney who won that state.

After a string of losses, Gingrich savored a victory in his home state of Georgia on Super Tuesday, March 6.

He embarked on a Southern strategy, citing a pledge to bring gas prices back to $2.50 a gallon.

But Gingrich came in second to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in both Mississippi and Alabama on March 13.

Santorum suspended his campaign on April 10, while Gingrich insisted on staying in the race. Just Tuesday, at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., Gingrich said it was too early to call it quits.

"Gov. Romney is not the nominee at this point," said Gingrich. "He does not have a majority of the delegates, and I think it's a little bit presumptuous. There's a big difference between being the front-runner and being inevitable."

But after Gingrich lost all five primary battles on Tuesday, he was rethinking his campaign.

"A lot of Republican activists have thought that he should have gotten out a long time ago," said Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. He said Gingrich's attacks on Romney and his insistence on remaining in the race as long as he did may have hurt Gingrich's prospects for a future role in the party.

"I think his stock is a little bit lower than when he started," said Black. "He's got to put his financial life back together. He's got to put his business life back together. He's got to do all that, and the question is how much credibility will he have in the future. "

After months of attacks on Romney, Gingrich is now calling on the Republican Party to unite behind the former Massachusetts governor.

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