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Has Newt Gingrich damaged his brand?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich waves to supporters as he leaves a campaign stop in Buffalo, N.Y., April 20, 2012.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich waves to supporters as he leaves a campaign stop in Buffalo, N.Y., April 20, 2012. AP Photo

News Analysis

Despite a fresh set of primary losses, a massive campaign debt and the widespread consensus that he has zero chance of winning, Newt Gingrich is still in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

For now.

Gingrich vowed Tuesday night to attend his scheduled events in North Carolina this week, though he acknowledged that he plans to "look realistically where we're at" and "think carefully about how we can be most helpful to this country." Still, he said he will stay in to push ideas like support for gun rights and opposition to same-sex marriage, telling a small audience he wants to send a message to the GOP that "we want a conservative platform."

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Gingrich's decision to stay in the race is, to put it politely, hard to fathom. A week of events in North Carolina - with the media paying little attention - isn't going to have much of an impact on the GOP platform. And Gingrich's continued refusal to acknowledge the reality of his situation runs the risk of further damaging a Gingrich brand that may well have already suffered as a result of his presidential run.

Consider the evidence: Gingrich's think tank - the Center for Health Transformation, which reportedly brought in more than $37 million over eight years from health care, pharmaceutical and related companies - went bankrupt in April. The advocacy and fundraising group he built after leaving Congress, American Solutions for Winning the Future, disappeared last year.

Gingrich's well-compensated gig as a Fox News contributor, which was suspended when he decided to run, is gone - and considering Gingrich's recent claims that the network is biased against him and engaged in "distortion," it isn't coming back.

His campaign finds itself with more than $4 million in debt - and it has far too little cash on hand to cover it, and little in the way of donations coming in. The campaign has become so desperate that it's renting out its donor and email list to private companies like LifeLock. Traditionally, the eventually nominee has helped vanquished rivals raise money to cover their debts, but considering the nasty rhetoric Gingrich has flung at Mitt Romney, the former House speaker certainly can't count on the help.

A self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, Gingrich is taking heat over for not relinquishing his Secret Service protection, which is paid for by taxpayers. (In 2008, the Secret Service estimated the cost per day of protecting a candidate at $38,000.) He has had to stop using his signature song when entering rooms to give speeches, "Eye of the Tiger," because the band Survivor sued him for doing so. And to add insult to injury: Not two weeks ago, Gingrich was bit by a penguin

Gingrich should be able to build back up some of his ventures, and his increased visibility has its benefits -- potentially including increased book sales. But while Rick Santorum emerged triumphant from his failed presidential run, Gingrich appears at least somewhat diminished, having traded in his elder statesman status for the sometimes-ignoble reality of a failed campaign. It remains to be seen what will happen to his speaking fees, standing in the party and consulting prowess in the coming months. But one thing seems clear: Dragging his candidacy out until its last dying breath probably isn't going to help.

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