Even in an open convention, Gingrich wouldn't have a prayer of getting the nomination. But that seems to matter less to him than blowing up Mitt Romney.
Gingrich no longer says he can capture the 1,144 delegates required to wrap up the Republican nomination. Instead, he now speaks frankly about a new plan: Keep Romney from getting to 1,144 by the end of the GOP primary season in June, and then start what Gingrich calls a "conversation" about who should be the Republican nominee. That conversation, the plan goes, would lead to a brokered GOP convention at which Gingrich would emerge as the eventual nominee.
"Our goal first is to keep Romney well below 1,000," Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said an hour before Gingrich addressed a small crowd of disappointed supporters gathered at the Wynfrey Hotel. "It doesn't have to be 1,000, or 1,050 -- it has to be below 1,100." If Gingrich succeeds, Hammond continued, "This will be the first time in our party in modern politics that we're going to go to the convention floor."
On election eve, after a long day of campaigning, Gingrich relaxed on a couch at the Wynfrey and vowed to keep challenging Romney through the summer -- long after the primaries have ended. If he can keep the former Massachusetts governor from hitting the 1,144 delegate mark, Gingrich said, "Then on the 26th of June, there's a real conversation. We haven't seen in our lifetime a situation where you actually had a political process beyond who wins the primaries." As he has several times in recent days, Gingrich brought up the case of Leonard Wood, the Army general who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1920.
"The reason I keep citing Leonard Wood is because in 1920, Wood goes into the convention as the frontrunner," Gingrich said. "[Warren G.] Harding goes in as the guy who's in sixth place, and at the end of ten ballots, Harding is the nominee and Wood is gone." More than 90 years later, that's the scenario Gingrich sees as his own path to victory.
Democrats would get a lot of enjoyment out of an open convention but would it hurt the nominee's chances in November?
A candidate who came out of the convention who hadn't run in any primaries would be a disaster. As it is, anyone who emerges is likely to leave behind hurt feelings and promises to stay home on election day from other candidates' supporters.
It probably wouldn't matter much to the electorate at large if the GOP blew themselves up in Tampa. But it would keep the GOP turnout down which would almost certainly hand the election to Obama.
For that, Gingrich would partially be blamed. But this scenario is so remote that it hardly bears mentioning. Gingrich can't win anywhere - north, south, east, or west. He will lose relevance fairly quickly and be in Ron Paul territory - single digits - very soon.