At 3:10, Gingrich’s daughters, two of their children, and one of their husbands took the stage. They stood stoically for a while. Finally, Callista Gingrich emerged from behind the stage, trailed by Newt. He took in the scene, flashed a “gee, can you believe it” glance at his wife, and thanked his daughters for bringing the kids.
“They brought, I think, the two best debate coaches,” said Gingrich. He welled up. “Whatever I did well in the debates, I ascribe it to Maggie and Robert.”
That was all the emotion we’d get. For the last time, Gingrich described all of the facts he’d learned, or he’d taught people, in a year’s worth of campaign stops. New Hampshire, he argued “is a model of balancing the budget the right way. In New Hampshire, they start with the revenue number and they appropriate up to the revenue number.” Herman Cain’s endorsement was “tremendous.” The people of South Carolina, too, were “tremendous,” and “the size of the victory was historic.” But he’d let them down, and would return to the state sheepish about “breaking their perfect record” of picking the eventual Republican nominee.
Gingrich was almost honest about his campaign. Newt 2012 didn’t work out. It stayed competitive only because of “Sheldon and Maria Adelson who single-handedly came very close to matching Romney’s Super PAC.” But when it sounded like he was about to blame himself for a mistake, he’d find a way to reroute and blame the media. “One of the topics I feel saddest about not talking about very well is brain science,” he said. And why? Because he struggled to take the concept “from the world of science, where everybody agrees about it, to the world of politics, where nobody understands what it means.” He had erred, probably, in talking about a moon colony that could achieve early statehood. But, reporters: “You may have noticed, the founders of Google are talking about mining an asteroid.” Smart people, as ever, knew that he was right. “I am cheerfully going to take back up the issue of space.”
The difference between Gingrich’s campaign and the average presidential effort was honesty. Nobody runs for president thinking he or she is mediocre, and that he might only solve 20-30 percent of the nation’s crises. Candidates have enormous egos. Gingrich just led with his. The loving staffers and family around him were probably less aware than him of what the campaign might cost him. His empire of influence and literature was a little diminished by the campaign. Solution: Remind his audience that the empire was going to rise again. “I’m grateful to Human Events,” said Gingrich, “for publishing my newsletter. My newsletter from today focuses specifically on religious liberty.”
As he described this, a reporter in the front row fiddled with Instagram. The only news Gingrich had left in him was about Mitt Romney. Would he endorse the man that every other loser has endorsed? “I’m asked sometimes,” said Gingrich, “Is Mitt Romney a conservative? This is not a choice between Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan. It’s between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.”
That was as far as he’d go. After he wrapped, his fans and family went back to their hallway catch-up talks. Reporters located Hammond and asked whether or not Gingrich had actually ended his campaign and endorsed Romney.
“The week after the election,” joked Hammond, “we’ll be in New Hampshire. We’ll be in Iowa by Thanksgiving. It’s good to see you guys!”
The press wouldn’t let Hammond go. Was this an endorsement? No. “Stay tuned” for one. When would it happen? “Leave me alone!”
Hammond disappeared. The reporters agreed: That was a perfect way to end this.
Watch a Requiem for Newt:
TODAY IN SLATE
The Self-Made Man
The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?
Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.
Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution
Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.
Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.
Lena Dunham, the Book
More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.