|U.S. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich addresses the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce at the Vestavia Hills Country Club, Alabama March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Defying the "elite media," the establishment, and maybe even common sense, Newt Gingrich is not going anywhere despite his southern revival strategy falling flat Tuesday.
Following his two defeats in Alabama and Mississippi -- both of which were won by the increasingly credible conservative challenger Rick Santorum -- Gingrich vowed to stay in the Republican nomination race until the party's convention in August no matter what -- even if fellow conservatives think he's "dead."
"Gingrich's final act could be kingmaker by getting out and endorsing, but pride cometh before the fall. Gingrich is in mid-fall," wrote conservative pundit Erick Erickson on his RedState.com blog.
"What a sad end to a brilliant legacy. But his campaign is over. All we need is Haley Joel Osment and M. Night Shyamalan to point out to him he is dead."
The Gingrich campaign even admitted Wednesday they are staying in the race just to spoil it for Mitt Romney, and hopefully force a brokered convention in which anyone can win, regardless of how few American conservatives actually want Gingrich to be president.
"Our goal first is to keep Romney well below 1,000," Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told reporters. "This will be the first time in our party in modern politics that we're going to go to the convention floor."
As recently as last week, the Gingrich's camp admitted Tuesday's Bible Belt contests were "must wins" if he was to stay relevant in the race.
But ever the optimist, Gingrich read the drubbing another way -- voters may not want him, but they don't want Romney, either.
"One of the things (Tuesday) proved is that the elite media's effort to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed," Gingrich said Tuesday night in Alabama. "I hope this evening we have ended any news media talk of the inevitability of their hand picked candidate."
He also mocked Romney for losing, but did not admit defeat himself.
"If you're the front runner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a frontrunner."
But if Gingrich's continued candidacy is to play the spoiler and stop Romney -- whom he blames for his losses -- Gingrich may in fact inadvertently help his nemesis win by splitting the anybody-but-Romney votes with the socially-conservative Santorum.
Indeed, despite finishing third in both southern contests in which the three leading candidates virtually tied, Romney actually amassed more delegates than either Santorum or Gingrich, since the former Massachusetts governor won the Hawaii and American Samoa caucuses that also took place Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Romney won 41 delegates, followed by Santorum with 35, and Gingrich with 24.
And so, while Tuesday's southern contests might have winnowed the field if nothing else, the Republican nomination race limps on to other high-stakes contests later this month.
Both Romney and Santorum are campaigning in Puerto Rico -- Gingrich is sending his daughter -- ahead of that territory's contest on Sunday when 23 delegates are up for grabs. Illinois -- a big prize with 54 delegates at stake -- votes on Tuesday.
And Gingrich was campaigning in the Prairie State Wednesday, even though Illinois like so many others in the race so far, is a run-away two-way race between Romney and Santorum.
A Chicago Tribune poll released last week showed Romney at 35% and Santorum at 31%, a gap within the poll's margin of error. Gingrich was a distant third at 12%, while Paul had just 7% support.