Gingrich Takes the Weekend Off

While Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum dueled for advantage before Tuesday's primary in Illinois, Newt Gingrich decided to take the weekend off from the GOP campaign trail.

"No schedule Sat. or Sun.," read an email from Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond, confirming that the former House Speaker would not be barnstorming for votes in any state this weekend.

The decision to take a weekend off came as Gingrich continued his search for new momentum in the GOP race, ignoring calls from some Republicans to get out of the race.

"We need your help for the next week," Gingrich told a crowd in Covington, Louisiana.   "And then we need your help all the way through November.

This weekend away from the daily drumbeat of campaign events is not being advertised as some top-to-bottom reassessment of his White House bid, as Gingrich plans to return to Louisiana on Monday for more stops.

The Bayou State holds a primary for 20 GOP convention delegates and Gingrich hopes he can finish well there, though polling from Louisiana shows him third behind Santorum and Romney.  Louisiana Republicans vote next weekend, on March 24.

But Gingrich's schedule also underscored a different reality, as he is not expected to spend any additional time in Illinois, where he campaigned for two days earlier this week and polls show him far behind Romney and Santorum.

Since Gingrich's twin losses in Alabama and Mississippi, Gingrich has been warding off suggestions that he should get out of the race in favor of Santorum, and some who know Gingrich well don't expect anything different reaction from the former Speaker.

Gingrich backers here in Washington, D.C. readily admitted to me in recent days that Gingrich never took their advice in the past and probably won't listen now either about his future in this race.

While Gingrich takes the weekend off, Santorum will stump for votes in Missouri, Illinois and Louisiana, continuing a strategy where he says he is making an effort in "every state."

So far that has paid off, as Santorum has vaulted over Gingrich and into second place in the number of victories by states and in terms of delegates.

While Gingrich seems likely to spend some of his weekend off the trail figuring out how to reverse that, it's not clear whether he can come back off the mat yet again in this topsy turvy 2012 GOP race.