Sure, Newt Gingrich has vowed to stay in the presidential race all the way to the August convention, but as far as the Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney campaigns and their surrogates are concerned, his candidacy is barely an afterthought.
In a fundraising plea, Santorum's campaign declared it a "two-man race." The Super PAC supporting him is airing a pull no punches attack on Romney. And the Romney campaign on Thursday unleashed two Pennsylvanians, a former congressman and Tea Party advocate, to tell reporters why they aren't supporting their native son.
In other words, Gingrich, who?
After winning Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday, Santorum solidified once and for all his place as the alternative for Republicans who aren't warming to Romney. While Romney has the backing of most of the GOP establishment, Santorum wrote in his fundraising letter, "I am convinced that whoever can activate grassroots conservatives will not only secure the nomination -- but will have the honor of defeating Barack Obama in the fall."
Meanwhile, the Red, White and Blue Fund has made a last-minute $310,000 ad buy in Illinois, the next Midwest battleground, that rips Romney for his support for the Wall Street bank bailout and his Massachusetts health care plan, which the ad describes as a "blueprint for Obamacare." It shows black and white photos of Romney and Obama as a voiceover intones, "More of the same." (watch the ad below)
Around midday, exposing the Romney campaign's concerns about Santorum's continued successes, it hosted a press conference call with former U.S. Rep. Phil English of Erie and Independence Hall Tea Party head Don Adams, to highlight why people who have known Santorum for years are not supporting him for president.
Both men said they'd stood with Santorum in the past, but did not think he had the chops, discipline or breadth to be the Republican nominee. Adams said if Santorum were the nominee, he would become the subject of scrutiny rather than the "economic failed policies of Barack Obama."
But even if the other campaigns ignore him, Gingrich is desperate to stay relevant, even if just to be a slice of political history and force a brokered convention, writes Paul West of The Los Angeles Times.