NEWARK, Del. – While trying to convince Republicans that he’s still relevant, Newt Gingrich on Wednesday brushed off reports of a bounced $500 check that his campaign sent to Utah to be included on the state’s primary ballot.
“This is one of those goofy things,” the former House speaker said following a stop at a senior center here. “That check was drawn in December. The account actually was closed by the time they processed it. It wasn’t a question of money; that particular bank account was closed.”
Gingrich and a spokesman confirmed that the campaign has sent a new check and that Gingrich's name will be on the ballot for Utah’s June 26 primary.
But Gingrich himself acknowledged to the crowd of about 150 people on Wednesday that he’s running “a very frugal campaign,” and tight funds are just one of many obstacles he faces in battling the notion that after Rick Santorum’s departure from the race on Tuesday, Mitt Romney is the de facto Republican nominee to face President Obama in the fall.
On Tuesday, Gingrich admitted his campaign will post slightly less than $4.5 million in campaign debt – a figure he attributes to “trying to match” Romney’s spending in the Florida primary.
Asked whether he feels any pressure to move aside amid calls to coalesce around Romney and focus on the general election, Gingrich stuck to his guns that Romney would have to earn, uncontested, the necessary 1,144 delegates before the convention for him to reconsider his campaign.
“I just had 15 people say thank you for staying in,” Gingrich told reporters at the senior center. “We had 3,500 people send money to Newt.org online after 2 o’clock yesterday [when Santorum dropped out] saying please stay in. I had folks in Philadelphia last night thanking me for staying in, and some of you were in New Bern yesterday in North Carolina where we had a sell-out crowd that literally had to turn people away at lunch, and they all said please stay in.
“So when I get out of the Washington press corps it’s amazing to me how little pressure there is,” he continued. “I don’t have anybody run up to me out here in everyday America and say please drop out.”
But a March 27 CNN/ORC International poll, taken before Santorum dropped his bid, showed 60 percent of Republicans surveyed want Gingrich out of the race, compared with 39 percent who think he should stay in.
Still, Gingrich said he hopes to capitalize on Santorum’s exit, citing Delaware, North Carolina, and the remaining Louisiana caucuses as areas he hopes to pick up delegates now that the former Pennsylvania senator is “out of the way.”
“My experience with history is, it’s not over til it’s over,” Gingrich said. “And that currently, it’s very clear that Romney does not have a majority of the delegates.”
The latest Associated Press count shows Romney with 661 delegates and Gingrich with 136.
In a subsequent appearance on CNN, Gingrich was asked about Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus' support of Santorum's decision to drop out and whether Gingrich interpreted it as a signal to do the same.
Priebus "called me to say that it should not be interpreted in any way except for exactly what he said about Rick Santorum's decision," Gingrich said. "Reince and I talked clearly about my staying in. I think he's quite happy with my staying in and he understands this brings new ideas and new energy to the party, and that's been my role for my entire career."