Republican officials in Delaware report light turnout in today's GOP presidential primary. "Very light," says Jerry Wood, chairman of the Sussex County Republican Party. "We'll be lucky if it breaks ten percent." Hans Riegle, head of the Kent County GOP, calls turnout in his county "medium," but adds, "There are just not that many Republicans in our state -- even if it was heavy, it would be light."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has staked the future of his campaign on results in Delaware, but Wood and Riegle -- both of whom have endorsed Gingrich -- say they can't tell how well he is doing. "Somebody started a rumor that Gingrich is dropping out," Riegle says, "and that is not helpful." Riegle called the Gingrich campaign this morning and was told the former Speaker is not leaving the race. But it's never a big vote-getter when word is circulating that a candidate might quit.
Gingrich campaign insiders say he will not withdraw from the race tonight, even if he suffers a serious defeat in Delaware along with expected losses in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. "Everything moves forward tonight," says a Gingrich aide. "It's just a matter of what speed."
Team Gingrich sees three possible scenarios. The first scenario is that Gingrich wins Delaware. "That's a signal to conservatives and Tea Partiers and grassroots activists that there still is a conservative they can send to Tampa," says the Gingrich aide. "And it sends the message to Romney that it's not time to turn to the general election." No one knows whether the winning scenario is at all plausible; there has been no polling of Delaware, with its tiny Republican population and 17 delegates.
Next comes the middle-road scenario in which Gingrich narrowly loses Delaware. "That's where we do well enough that it demonstrates there's a chink in Romney's armor," the aide says. When asked what "well enough" means, the aide answered, "Within a couple of points -- a close loss."
The worst-case scenario is that Gingrich loses big in Delaware. If that happens, the aide says, "We'll start to reassess as the campaign goes forward. [Gingrich] will keep his campaign schedule in North Carolina, and over the next couple of days we'll talk to supporters and reassess whether the campaign has a road forward." It wouldn't be a long process, the aide says, noting that Gingrich would likely make a decision on what to do by Saturday.
How could Gingrich go on, in any event? Even though he is in debt, he appears to want to keep the campaign going to North Carolina, which holds its primary May 8 and awards its 55 delegates proportionally. (Gingrich will deliver his election-night speech tonight from Concord, North Carolina, a suburb of Charlotte.) Aides point to an ABC News report in which Rick Tyler, who runs the pro-Gingrich SuperPAC Winning Our Future, said the organization still has about $5 million in the bank. "All of the money will be used for Newt’s benefit," Tyler told ABC. The report continued: "Although Tyler would not reveal any specific plans or potential ad buys, he said that Winning Our Future planned to help out Gingrich's campaign in North Carolina."
So Gingrich would like to be able to take advantage of that SuperPAC support. But only if he can get past Delaware. And even then, for an unknown period of time.