ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Last night, Newt Gingrich placed second in both the Alabama and Mississippi primaries. He remains in a distant third when it comes to delegates, but he too is turning his attention to Illinois. He's there campaigning today. Last night, Gingrich laid out for his supporters what's next for the campaign.
NEWT GINGRICH: What will become a challenge is we'll now have three or four days of news media and they'll all say, why doesn't Gingrich quit? These are the same people, by the way, who said last June that I was dead. You know, and they recycle this every six weeks. And the biggest challenge will be raising money because we came in second, which isn't as much as we wanted.
SIEGEL: Not as much as they wanted. Well, at this point, why should Newt Gingrich stay in the race? Joining us from Nashville is Rick Tyler. He used to be Newt Gingrich's spokesman. Now, he's a senior advisor to the pro-Gingrich superPAC Winning Our Future. Hi, welcome back to the program.
RICK TYLER: I'm glad to be here.
SIEGEL: The difference between last June, which Newt Gingrich referenced, and now is that there have been many primaries and caucuses by now. Can you honestly see a path from where Newt Gingrich is today to his winning the nomination in Tampa?
TYLER: Well, honestly, I can. I mean, in many ways, Newt is Lincoln in 1860 who went to his convention, I think, third. And Newt will arrive in Tampa on equal footing with the other candidates. That is, he will arrive with less than the required number of delegates to win the nomination. If that happens, my prediction is that Mitt Romney will lose the first ballot and if he loses the first ballot, he will be abandoned. And then Newt, I believe, would have better than a 50/50 chance of winning the nomination among the remaining three candidates.
SIEGEL: So you're saying an equal footing would be if Newt Gingrich had 900 delegates and Rick Santorum 700 and Newt Gingrich 400, that would qualify as equal footing because nobody has a majority for the first ballot, you're saying.
TYLER: Nobody has majority for the first ballot and, you know, look, all bets are off.
SIEGEL: There are polls matching up Barack Obama against Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum. The RealClearPolitics website averages them out. Romney trails Obama in that average by just under four points, Santorum trails by just over seven points, Newt Gingrich trails by 13 points. There's no indication, it seems from polling, that he's a stronger candidate against Barack Obama.
TYLER: Robert, you know better than that. The pollings are a capture of a static point in time. And remember, you know, lots of presidential candidates, including Ronald Reagan, were behind and he went on to beat Jimmy Carter handily.
SIEGEL: One reading of the speaker's fortunes is that it really doesn't matter if he's winning a lot of delegates or attracting endorsements or new contributions so long as the superPAC that you're involved with can advertise against his rivals, there's no reason for him to drop out. First of all, can you tell us what percent of the funds that Winning Our Future has raised come from two people, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson?
TYLER: Well, I don't want to break it down that way and I don't talk about donors and I'm not going to speculate on further fundraising. I just...
SIEGEL: Well, is it roughly 100 percent, is my first question.
TYLER: No. I don't think it's 100 percent, but I think fundraising will definitely be a challenge. But I don't think this is about fundraising. I don't think this is about who can buy the Republican nomination. I think this is about the heart and soul of the Republican Party. And I do believe that if Newt Gingrich believed that either one of these candidates, Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney, could beat Barack Obama and would actually change Washington, I think he would get out. He doesn't believe that's true, nor do I.
SIEGEL: Well, do you think that the kind of convention you've described, which we haven't seen anything like in decades and decades, do you think it would actually be good for the Republican Party if there were a, oh, a first ballot that produced no results and deals being hatched in basements of the convention hall and all sorts of things that Gore Vidal might have written a play about at one time.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
TYLER: You will love it. I mean, the media will love it. They can't wait. I mean, the media used to complain about the smoke-filled rooms right up until it became a television show and then they complained about the television show. Now they can go back to complaining about the smoke-filled rooms. But I think it would be a very exciting time.
SIEGEL: I'm not complaining. Is it good for the party? Is it good for the Republican Party to nominate a candidate that way?
TYLER: Yes, it's good for the Republican Party. The reason is, it would be terrible for the Republican Party to put up, once again, the establishment's candidate, a moderate, who has no ability to beat Barack Obama or even provide a contrast to Barack Obama. You know, as they say, this party has got to decide who it wants to be when it grows up.
Does it want to be the other party that represents government interests or does it actually want to be the party that represents the taxpayer, the entrepreneur, freedom, small business, the family. That's who our party has been. I'm not about to abandon that to a moderate from Massachusetts. I hope the rest of the party isn't either.
SIEGEL: Rick Tyler of Winning Our Future, thanks so much for talking with us once again.
TYLER: Thanks, Robert.
SIEGEL: And we checked the latest financial filings for the superPAC Winning Our Future. Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, the donors I mentioned, account for $10 million in contributions. That is 76 percent of the total contributions received by the superPAC that supports Newt Gingrich. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.