JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--With stakes this high, Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign is taking a moon shot.
Since Gingrich arrived in Florida after winning the South Carolina primary last Saturday, his campaign has stumbled, despite his every effort to reach the state's largest voting blocs. In less than a week, Gingrich has made the traditional Florida rounds. He has met with Jews, Cubans, golfers, tourists, snowbirds, astronauts and lots of old people, many of whom were also Jews, Cubans, golfers, tourists and snowbirds. By the end of the weekend, Gingrich's schedule of campaign stops read like a parody of the state.
So if Gingrich loses in Florida on Tuesday, it won't be for lack of trying. Already a master of the art of knowing one's audience, Gingrich arrived in the state prepared to tell each group he visited exactly what they wanted to hear.
And perhaps to a fault, Gingrich traveled the state making very big and very specific promises.
During a visit to the Space Coast, a region full of nervous scientists and engineers worried about losing their jobs after President Obama scaled down NASA, Gingrich vowed to put "the first permanent base on the moon" by the end of his second term, a project that would keep those scientists and engineers busy and employed for some time.
In Miami on Friday, Gingrich told a Latino crowd at the Hispanic Leadership Network conference that Cuba could be free by 2013, that he would step up the battle against Mexican drug cartels and that he would approve statehood to Puerto Rico if the people on the island supported it.
In Delray Beach at a Republican Jewish Coalition rally in front of a crowd of people wearing buttons that read, "Obama ... Oy Vey," Gingrich emphasized his unrelenting support for Israel, repeating his call to move the American embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Despite these patient, targeted efforts on the campaign trail, with comparatively little money to spend on broadcast advertising, Gingrich and his allies have been unable to compete against the well-heeled Romney in such a large, expensive state. He has been drowned out by Romney's campaign and super PAC on the Florida airwaves by a margin of $12 million, according to Politico's Alexander Burns.
Gingrich has vowed to press on with his campaign, no matter what happens on Tuesday. Without saying it outright, he gently hinted Sunday that he is waiting patiently for Rick Santorum to kindly drop out of the race and endorse him.
"When you add the two conservatives together, we clearly beat Romney," Gingrich said after attending a church service in Lutz, a town north of Tampa.
When a reporter asked him if he had spoken to Santorum, Gingrich said he had "no doubt the two of us are going to collectively outscore Romney." He added, "And at that point it might be a pretty good conversation."
There is, however, evidence that this plan would not even be enough to derail Romney, at least in Florida: A Marist poll released Sunday showed that given a second choice, Santorum supporters were split between Gingrich in Romney.
Granted, circumstances can change fast. Gingrich has a full schedule of events planned for Monday, the final day before the primary. With his new surrogate Herman Cain by his side, Gingrich will span the state on a chartered jet, covering more than a thousand miles before dinner.
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