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Gingrich poised to embrace bitter rival Romney

Schieffer: Gingrich made Romney a better debater
Republican presidential candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in the Republican presidential candidates debate in Jacksonville, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

News Analysis

Later today, Newt Gingrich is set to - finally - suspend his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Gingrich told USA Today in an interview Tuesday that he will embrace Romney's candidacy and is prepared to campaign for his former rival - and in return, Romney will help Gingrich retire some of his millions of dollars in campaign debt.

Still, it may not be easy for Gingrich, who ultimately won only two primary contests. Consider the praise he offered on Tuesday: "Mitt Romney met the first criteria of being a good candidate: He won. Now, you have to respect that."

Talk about faint praise. Indeed, Romney's ability to win isn't something Gingrich had much respect for during the primary, when he repeatedly suggested that Romney was using his fundraising advantage to buy the election

That was just one of the nasty commentsGingrich offered about Romney; the Obama campaign spotlighted some more of them, including Gingrich's unambiguous characterization of Romney as a liar, in a web video released this morning. On Tuesday, the Obama campaign released a television ad that followed Gingrich in spotlighting Romney's "Swiss bank account."

No matter what Gingrich does to help Romney from here on out, that history of attacks isn't going away. Gingrich is ultimately a net negative for the presumptive nominee: He won't be able to significantly help - it's hard to imagine there are many voters whose decision in November will have much to do with Gingrich - and his past comments can be used in attack ads against the GOP standard bearer.

But those facts don't make his announcement at 3 p.m. Eastern Time in Arlington, Virginia today - Romney, it's worth noting, is not scheduled to be there - any less interesting. The big question is the degree to which Gingrich throws his arms around his former rival, who he once described as primarily qualified for "managing the decay." Rick Santorum, who left the race last month, has decided not to offer a full-throated endorsement thus far, seemingly because he wants to cement his status as a leader of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, a group that still looks at Romney skeptically.

Gingrich could take that path as well. But despite his campaign trail rhetoric, the former House speaker and Beltway power broker has always been an insider. Reclaiming a central spot in his party (after a primary that seems to have diminished him) means lining up behind the presumptive nominee. For Gingrich, that means swallowing his pride, accepting defeat, and unambiguously embracing a man he seems genuinely not to like. No wonder it's taken the self-described "transformational figure" so long to finally get out of the way.