New Gingrich: Not Great With Numbers

The Louisiana GOP primary didn’t tell us a huge amount. Everyone expected Rick Santorum to win by a lot, and he did. But it doesn’t change the math, and the math says Mitt Romney is still the prohibitive favorite.

So what most caught my eye in Politico’s writeup were the quotes from Newt Gingrich, who didn’t garner a high enough proportion of the vote to win a single delegate (state primary rules say you need 25% to get delegates, and Gingrich netted just 16%):

“I have hopes,” Gingrich told POLITICO of his expectations in Louisiana after a speech Saturday afternoon at the same Pennsylvania conference. He’ll hold no events after the Louisiana results are tabulated, a more common practice for Gingrich after disappointing primary or caucus finishes.

Gingrich insists he’s not entertaining thoughts that it’s time to get out of the race.

“The number of people who walk up to me and say please stay in the race is pretty remarkable,” Gingrich said Friday. “I feel a real responsibility to those 176,000 people who have gone to newt.org and donated. … The only pressure I get from anywhere is either Romney supporters or occasional random people in the news media. But people on the street, people at the rallies, people at events like last night at LSU, are very, very enthusiastic.”

Which begs a couple questions: Does Gingrich understand that whether or not people come up to him on the street to implore him to stay in has very little to do with whether or not he can compete in this race? And does he understand that 176,000 divided by 300 million is—hold for a Google calculation—0.000586666667, or 0.06%?

That is to say, 176,000 is a big number, yes, but only when compared to relatively small numbers, like 1 or 15 or 256. Compared to big numbers—and there are a whole infinity of big numbers!—176,000 isn’t all that big.

You’d think this is the sort of stuff he’d have down by now. After all, the guy wants to build a moon base.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.