I'm kind of missing Newt Gingrich already.
It's pretty obvious that the Republican sachems are putting the citrus state death-squeeze on his choleric, solipsistic, haymaker-swinging, high-concept, low-road, zany Nicolas Cage-style presidential campaign.
They even sicced poor old Bob Dole on him. The former Senate leader and the GOP's 1996 presidential nominee dutifully characterized Gingrich as a "one-man band" for whom it was "his way or the highway" -- an "articulate" man, he told CBS News, but "very difficult to work with." Which no doubt he was, and is, but heck, so is the current Republican Congress.
Piggybacking on Gingrich's extramarital peccadilloes, someone in South Carolina sent out a fake news alert email using a faked CNN letterhead announcing that "a source close to Marianne Gingrich [Gingrich's second wife] tells CNN that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich forced her to abort a pregnancy conceived during the affair that preceeded her marriage to Gingrich."
Note the misspelling of "preceded." And in the age of Photoshop, such a slick trick with the logo is easy to pull off -- evidence the persistently dopey "birther" fantasists and the faking of a Kenyan "birth certificate" for President Obama.
At least Karl Rove had to go to all the trouble of using a fake ID to worm his way into the campaign of an Illinois Democrat, and then physically steal 1,000 sheets of campaign letterhead in order to print up bogus fliers. Do you know how much 1,000 sheets of paper weigh? Dirty tricksters today -- so lazy.
Newt Gingrich has promised he will not go away even if he loses Florida's primary. But without the votes to carry him forward, he may wind up at the Tampa convention like King George IV's estranged consort, Caroline, who showed up to be crowned at Westminster Abbey and was turned away at bayonet-point as George was being crowned inside.
Goodbye to Newt means goodbye to moon bases, to adultery as a conservative virtue (after all, as one voter said, at least he married 'em) and to a passion for wild critters that could have meant a budget boost for zoos and endangered species.
It means back to the same old dreary Republican steamroller campaign, and an end to delish moments like the endorsement letter from an Arizona prison, written by the felonious former California Republican congressman Duke Cunningham, who is serving time for bribery, with payoffs that ran to some pretty ugly furniture.
The Cunningham letter says Gingrich has the support of 80% of his fellow inmates, even though they can't vote -- but their families can.
It means adios to the battle over Gingrich's remark about bilingual education and the need to learn English, the language of "prosperity," not just the "language of living in a ghetto" -- and therefore adieu to Gingrich's ads pointing out that Mitt Romney speaks French "just like John Kerry," the Democratic presidential candidate savaged by Republicans for his bilingualism in 2004. (French was the language of the Marquis de Lafayette, who helped to save Americans' bacon in the Revolutionary War.)
It's farewell to Gingrich's kind of "I'm rubber, you're glue" fulminating attacks on the news media. Don't worry, information haters, other candidates will find other means to trot out that old chestnut, in the vein of Spiro Agnew.
Agnew committed the twin offenses of tax evasion and alliteration. Before he resigned the vice presidency after pleading no contest to the former, he was a three-strike offender on the latter, speaking of the media as "nattering nabobs of negativism" and excoriating "hopeless hypochondriacs of history" and "pusillanimous pussyfooters."
I do admit to being nostalgic for a time when national figures used five-syllable words in their name-calling. Nowadays the tone has plunged to the dispiritingly low bar set by the South Carolina Republican congressman yelling "You lie!’’ at the president of the United States on the floor of Congress.
If the polls are on the nose, the Florida primary means ice trumps fire, that Willard Mitt Romney heads for the nomination on greased rails aboard the Citrus Express, while Newton Leroy McPherson, adopted surname Gingrich, gets his whistle-top car rerouted to a howlingly lonely siding in the Florida Panhandle.
Like a roller-coaster ride at one of Florida's myriad amusement parks, it was fun, and kind of scary, while it lasted.
Gingrich: Fly me to the moon
Daum: Newt's debt to Clinton
McManus: A Gingrich presidency?
-- Patt Morrison
Photo: Newt Gingrich greets supporters as he arrives at a rally on Jan. 30 at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront hotel in Florida. Credit: Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images