Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has scrapped plans to campaign in Michigan for that state's Feb. 28 primary, and will instead spend most of his time in states with primaries that fall on Super Tuesday, March 6, his campaign confirmed late Tuesday.
The decision effectively cedes the state to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the two candidates who are neck-and-neck for first place in Michigan.
Gingrich's absence creates an opportunity for Santorum, who now has an improved chance to consolidate the support of social conservatives and tea party voters. It is unwelcome news for Romney, who faces increased pressure to prevail in a state where he is a favorite son.Special Section: Campaign 2012
Gingrich, who is currently in Arizona for Wednesday's final debate before the next round of primaries on Feb. 28, will head to Washington state and Idaho on Thursday. Washington's caucus will be held on March 3, three days before Super Tuesday. The state has 43 delegates up for grabs, and according to Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, the caucus will provide a good opportunity to increase the candidate's delegate count. However, the caucus results are non-binding and delegates will not be allotted until the state convention May 30 to June 2.
The former House speaker is scheduled to address the California Republican convention on Saturday, and then is to head to his home state of Georgia, where he has plans to address two church congregations on Sunday. Gingrich will also campaign in the Peach State on Tuesday, Feb. 28, when voters in both Michigan and Arizona go to the polls. Among his stops that day will be West Georgia College, where Gingrich taught from 1970 to 1978, before getting elected to the House.
In an appearance on Fox News' Hannity program late Tuesday, Gingrich said, "I want to go back to big ideas and big solutions, which twice made me the front-runner in the race."
Romney, he said, "needs to carry Michigan. He may well do so, the race is narrowing. I need to carry Georgia. Rick Santorum needs to carry Pennsylvania. That's just basics - doesn't strike me as all that profound an insight. You have to have some proof that somewhere you're electable."
"In Governor Romney's case, he doesn't have social conservatism like Rick Santorum, he doesn't have big conservative reforms like I do. His basic argument here was he was inevitable, he was going to win. Well, he needs to win if he's going to win.
He also took a shot at one of President Obama's most successful foreign policy ventures, the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden in his secret hideout in Pakistan in 2011.
"This is a president who refuses to recognize who's trying to kill us," Gingrich said. "You have the Pakistanis, we now know for sure, protected bin Laden for years. And they didn't arrest the people who were protecting him. They arrested the man who helped us find him."