Gin­grich says no deal af­ter a se­cret talk with Rom­ney

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hopeful Newt Gin­grich met se­cretly with GOP ri­val Mitt Rom­ney on Satur­day, ac­cord­ing to a source close to the cam­paign, but the for­mer House speaker says he has made no deal to end his bid for the GOP nom­i­na­tion.

Mr. Gin­grich, re­spond­ing to ques­tions from The Washington Times, did not deny the meet­ing, but ex­plic­itly said he hasn’t been of­fered a po­si­tion in a po­ten­tial Rom­ney ad­min­is­tra­tion in ex­change for drop­ping out.

Nor, he said, is there a deal to have Mr. Rom­ney’s big donors help re­tire Mr. Gin­grich’s cam­paign debt of more than $1 mil­lion.

“There is no agree­ment of any kind, and I plan to go all the way to Tampa,” Mr. Gin­grich said, re­fer­ring to the Au­gust GOP presi-

Robert T. Ben­nett, a na­tional com­mit­tee­man from Ohio, likened the strat­egy to the ap­proach of Don Quixote, the “mad” knight from Span­ish lit­er­a­ture.

“San­to­rum and Newt will try to fig­ure out a strat­egy to stop him,” Mr. Ben­nett said. “I just think they are tilt­ing at wind­mills.”

Mr. Rom­ney’s crit­ics have ar­gued that while nei­ther man ap­pears likely to win the nom­i­na­tion out­right on a first bal­lot, deny­ing Mr. Rom­ney an im­me­di­ate win would be­gin the deal­mak­ing to try to win other can­di­dates’ del­e­gates. Mr. San­to­rum and Mr. Gin­grich both ar­gue that they would be the con­ser­va­tive al­ter­na­tive to whom del­e­gates would rally.

On Tues­day, Mr. Gin­grich re­tooled his cam­paign and cut staff, but said he in­tends to make a case to del­e­gates at the con­ven­tion in Au­gust.

So far, he has failed to meet the party’s el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ment for his name to be put on the first nom­i­na­tion bal­lot. A can­di­date must have won a plu­ral­ity of del­e­gates in at least five states, a thresh­old only Mr. Rom­ney and Mr. San­to­rum have met.

In the del­e­gate-count bat­tle, Mr. Rom­ney leads with 568 in the lat­est As­so­ci­ated Press tally — more than dou­ble Mr. San­to­rum’s 273. Mr. Gin­grich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas are fur­ther be­hind, with 153 and 50 del­e­gates, re­spec­tively.

Mr. Rom­ney also con­tin­ues to pick up sup­port from high-pro­file Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, who plans to of­fi­cially en­dorse him at an event in Hous­ton on Thurs­day, and his son, for­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who called on the party to rally be­hind him last week.

The el­der Mr. Bush’s en­dorse­ment fol­lows a CNN poll re­leased this week that found a ma­jor­ity of Repub­li­cans would like to see Mr. Gin­grich and Mr. Paul drop out of the race, set­ting up the sort of “mano a mano” sce­nario that Mr. San­to­rum has been call­ing for in the wake of his strong per­for­mances on Su­per Tues­day on March 6 and in re­cent con­tests in the Deep South.

What­ever the case, it ap­pears Mr. Rom­ney has the in­side track on the 98 del­e­gates up for grabs in next week’s win­ner-take-all con­tests in the Dis­trict of Columbia, Mary­land and Wis­con­sin, where the elec­torate does not have the kind of strong evan­gel­i­cal bent that has helped Mr. San­to­rum and Mr. Gin­grich. Mr. San­to­rum failed to qual­ify for the D.C. bal­lot, for­feit­ing a shot at 19 del­e­gates.

The race then moves to five con­tests worth more than 200 del­e­gates in the north­east­ern part of the coun­try, where Mr. Rom­ney also is thought to be on gen­er­ally fa­vor­able po­lit­i­cal ground.

As a re­sult, Mr. Gin­grich and Mr. San­to­rum have changed their tune, aban­don­ing the no­tion that they can win the nom­i­na­tion out­right, while ar­gu­ing that they can still win the party’s nom­i­na­tion if they force a bro­kered con­ven­tion by block­ing Mr. Rom­ney from cap­tur­ing the magic num­ber of del­e­gates needed to be the party’s stan­dard-bearer.

John Ry­der, a Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­ber from Ten­nessee, said that while he would not rule out any­thing, it is “im­prob­a­ble and un­likely” that any of Mr. Rom­ney’s com­peti­tors can trip him up and pull out a vic­tory on the con­ven­tion floor.

“They sim­ply haven’t demon­strated enough strength or breadth of sup­port to get there,” he said. “He is go­ing to have so much mo­men­tum and the im­pe­tus is go­ing to be so strong to rally around him that I think it is go­ing to be pretty hard to stop un­less there is some sort of rein­car­na­tion of Ron­ald Rea­gan. Well, if we had that, he or she would have al­ready en­tered the race, and they are not there.”

“So,” he said, “the like­li­hood is that that ain’t go­ing to hap­pen.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

For­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich walks the streets of An­napo­lis dur­ing a visit to the Mary­land State House on Tues­day. The Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hopeful, who has cut his cam­paign staff, was in the state in ad­vance of the April 3 pres­i­den­tial pri­mary.

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