This Republican primary has seen plenty of drop-outs so far -- five by our count -- and each one came if not by surprise, then at least all of a sudden: The rumor of an announcement, the hastily called press conference, then the "suspension" a few hours later. Not Newt Gingrich. As The New York Times' Mark Leibovich smartly pointed out on Friday, Gingrich is employing the drawn-out kabuki theater that candidates normally use to enter a presidential race for his exit: "They announce the formation of exploratory committees, announce that they intend to run, announce that they are actually running, etc. Ever the innovator, Mr. Gingrich has applied that ritual to quitting."
On Wednesday, Newt's campaign said he would announce its end next Tuesday, and until then, he's on a sort of farewell tour across the South while his people make their way to Washington, D.C. for his big announcement. It's a pretty nervy move, since as The Times points out, "it costs taxpayers about $40,000 a day to pay for Mr. Gingrich’s Secret Service detail." (Although, that may be a perk that's already over: NBC News reported that Gingrich lost his detail last night.) And as long as he's on the trail, "there is also the intangible cost to Mr. Gingrich’s stature and the threat to party unity behind the inevitable nominee, Mitt Romney — whom, Mr. Gingrich says, he will support and campaign for." But darn it, Gingrich likes campaigning. And he's going to squeeze every last factory tour and zoo visit from the remaining days of his journey. At this point, we're guessing, even a glitter bomb might go over with a sense of wistful nostalgia.