Only about 6 percent of precincts are reporting right now and, sure, Newt Gingrich is trailing Mitt Romney 40 to 20 (with Ron Paul at a strong 26), but the night is still young, folks. So even though the former Speaker is expected to lose handily tonight, it did seem a little premature of the Times’ Trip Gabriel to be repeating rumors of a possible Gingrich withdrawal, based almost solely on the fact that he scheduled a press conference rather than a more-traditional rally for tonight, and because of his “light schedule of public appearances in Nevada.” When reached by the Washington Times this afternoon, Gingrich rejected the notion and even added (not terribly convincingly) that “Super Tuesday and beyond look good.” R.C. Hammond, Gingrich’s spokesperson, was also having none of it, tweeting: “NYT showing once again why they are unfit for print. Gingrich to campaign in CO, MN & OH this week. CPAC on Friday.”
In Gabriel’s defense, he himself lists Gingrich’s upcoming schedule before closing with the line: “It doesn’t sound like a candidate preparing to drop out.”
Still, there are at least two high-profile Nevadans who’ve made news today, either for clamoring for a Gingrich exit or simply for alluding to a post-Gingrich race. The first, Representative Joe Heck, a Romney surrogate, told a press gathering earlier today, “It’s time for [Gingrich] to withdraw gracefully.” The second figure, surprisingly, is Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is now perhaps best known as the deep-pocketed Vegas casino magnate who, along with his wife, largely bankrolled Gingrich’s rise to victory in South Carolina two weeks ago. But he is getting nervous that no other one percenters have joined him in supporting the former Speaker and even spoke on the phone with Mitt Romney recently, reports the Times in a separate story today. The lede of that article asserts that Adelson has “relayed assurances to that he will provide even more generous support to his candidacy if he becomes the Republican nominee.”
One of Adelson’s friends insists that he’s still “committed to keeping [Gingrich] in the race as long as he wants to stay in,” but if your staunchest and most financially significant backer is casting around for another horse to bet on, you can be damn well sure it’s because he spotted that slight (or not so slight) limp that could well trip you up far before the finish line even comes into view.
Update: The Times is now dispelling the rumors that it, to some extent, started up. Jim Rutenberg posted on the paper’s Nevada caucus live-blog the following quote from a senior Gingrich strategist: “The dropping out stories can be explained in these simple terms: Up in Boston each week they hope it’s the end. Once again they will be disappointed. This is going on to Tampa or until they drop out whichever comes first.”