Five months ago, Newt Gingrich was confidently predicting his own GOP primary victory. One month ago, he was seen to have a strong shot at winning the Alabama and Mississippi primaries. Today, his candidacy is increasingly seen as irrelevant, and his campaign has scaled back heavily, NBC's First Read team writes. The change in his presidential fortunes come as Rick Santorum emerges as the strongest rival to Mitt Romney, who seems poised to become the nominee barring an act of God. Gingrich has let go a third of his staff and schedules fewer events than he once did. He now travels the campaign trail with just his spokesman and Secret Service protection, and no press bus follows him on it. According to First Read, the new low-key campaign seems to Gingrich's liking, however. "I am happy with how it is being run," he said Thursday.