After effectively skipping the Illinois primary, Newt Gingrich made it clear that his chances for moving forward in presidential primary lie in the South.
Speaking from Louisiana, where he campaigned this week, Gingrich said on Tuesday that he thought Rick Santorum did not have a good night after trying and failing for the third time to win an industrial Midwestern state.
“I think that candidates have to pick the areas they think they can win,” he told Fox News. “I think we have a much better chance of winning in Louisiana. Governor Romney had a pretty good day. I think he took a step towards clearly proving he was the frontrunner.”
The election comes down to who can beat President Obama, Gingrich said, and he argues that Santorum and Mitt Romney cannot. Much of Gingrich’s focus has surrounded the delegate count, saying that if Romney is unable to reach the pinnacle 1,144 number needed to secure the nomination, a decision would be made at the Republican convention, where Gingrich said he can prevail. If Romney hits that mark, however, Gingrich said “he’s the nominee, fair and square.”
But Romney’s tactics in Illinois—outspending Santorum by huge margins on the airwaves with negative ads—should be of concern for the Republican Party, Gingrich said. “The Romney machine can drive down turnout,” he said. “It can run over opponents with negative ads. It doesn't seem capable of inspiring positive turnout. And the result is very, very worrisome, if you are thinking about the fall campaign.”
The idea of the “Romney machine” is starting to become a theme for Romney's rivals. Later in the night, Santorum complained about his money woes and the power of Romney’s super PAC. He said, “We feel like we’re up there running against the machine.”
In the meantime, Louisiana’s 46 delegates are up for grabs on March 24, and both Santorum and Gingrich are talking up their chances once again in the South.