FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- On the political periphery, Newt Gingrich is pinning his fleeting Republican presidential hopes on Georgia, where his career began, and a cluster of other states also voting March 6.
He's likely to lose in Michigan and Arizona on Tuesday and could be riding a nine-state losing streak by the time Super Tuesday comes. The former House speaker has no opportunities for breakout performances in debates, which he used twice before to pull his campaign back from the brink.
He squandered an opportunity in a debate Wednesday night to reassert himself in what has become a two-man race. He was relegated to the role of referee between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
With the immediate focus on Tuesday's contests, Gingrich's Super Tuesday strategy is filled with risks. On that day, 10 states will vote, with a total of 419 delegates at stake.
"There's only so long you can play for time," says GOP consultant Terry Nelson, a top strategist for previous presidential candidates who is unaligned in this race. "People pay attention around these contests. When you don't compete in them, you take yourself out of the conversation."
Not that Gingrich is letting such notions bother him.
"The fact is, even though this is at times hard and at times with its ups and downs, I am cheerful," Gingrich said Thursday as he gazed out over a packed Idaho ballroom. It's an adjective not usually used to describe the hard-charger with a reputation for being cantankerous, though Gingrich himself used it when candidates were asked in Wednesday night's debate to describe themselves in one word.