Walter Shapiro, in the New Republic, concludes that the Louisiana primary marks the end of Newt Gingrich’s quest. “There are no third acts in American politics.” Shapiro opines.
â€œAt an age when most young men are focused on playing sports and meeting girls, Newt was fantasizing about saving the world.â€
â€”Steven M. Gillon, The Pact, 2008
Despite Newt Gingrichâ€™s best efforts, it looks like the world is going to have to save itself.
Unfortunately, I tend to think he is right. For a while, it looked as if it was actually possible that Newt Gingrich could use the power of debate to re-shape the trajectory of the primary contest and the election in his own favor, that he could singlehandedly move our political process out of the modern sound bite and electronic image era and back into the era of verbal discourse and the contest of ideas.
Gingrich, however, also deliberately threw the first punches below the belt, attacking Romney, forsooth! for capitalist actvivity. Gingrich’s attack ads seem to have reminded Republicans of some behavior giving the impression of opportunism in the past, and a variety of prominent conservative and Republican figures responded with a devastating, highly coordinated attack from which Newt never really recovered.
Gingrich was clearly a flawed candidate. Of course, they are all flawed, but Newt Gingrich’s flaws are not being forgiven or overlooked.
Americans at this political moment are significantly more likely to identify as conservative than as liberal: conservatives outnumber liberals by nearly two to one. Forty percent identify as conservative, 36 percent as moderate, and 21 percent liberal.
Then (yawn) proceeded to explain once again that conservatives are that way by virtue of our inferior incomes, education, and class status.
Gosh, if that were really true, shouldn’t the liberals love us and be actively promoting compensatory programs to get conservatives into more influential jobs and to provide them with greater congressional representation?
Of course, Barack Obama does seem to be doing a tolerable job at bringing about those very things, but even so…
As far as I could see, the only worthwhile thing in the article was a good anti-Gingrich zinger.
â€œ[O]ne is a practicing polygamist and heâ€™s not even the Mormon,â€ retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day Oâ€™Connor recently quipped about her partyâ€™s two frontrunners.
(Personally, I still prefer Newt, but I like good rhetoric.)
[T]he GOP is leaving Florida worse than it arrived.
â€œI think there has been lasting damage,â€ he said. â€œI think that when Newt Gingrich parades around the country saying Mitt Romney is a liar and Mitt Romney parades around country saying Newt Gingrich is a liar, the conclusion most people draw is theyâ€™re both liars.â€
I’d say though that it started in South Carolina, when the Gingrich campaign took the low road and started attacking Mitt Romney using the left’s anti-capitalist, class warfare arguments.
The massive counter-attack on Gingrich, featuring prominent Republicans, former Congressional colleagues, and conservative pundits, which stooped to utilizing bogus democrat party ethics charges fabricated in the late 1990s for purely partisan advantage was effective and appalling.
We came into this presidential campaign, essentially with an economy-based free “Elect One President” card which ought to have made this race a relative walk-over and a complete sure thing.
Our only problem has been the conspicuous absence, for many years, of a respected, confident and articulate, national figure conservative candidate. For some unaccountable reason, no one has come along to occupy the role once filled by Barry Goldwater and later by Ronald Reagan. Newt Gingrich, for instance, did not really enter the race with that credential. I tend to think that Sarah Palin may yet grow into the role, though she is not there yet. Her declining to run prematurely speaks well for her judgment, and Palin has since 2008 been doing the kind of thing no conservative since Reagan has done: she has functioned as a reliable and effective voice for the conservative movement, and has had regular impact on the national political debate from outside elective office.
We Republicans and conservatives ought to be filled with optimism and resolve at a point in history when it is clear that we are going to have an opportunity to change the country’s direction for the better, but instead we seem to have no leadership, no principles, no really satisfactory candidates, and no class. We clearly have too damn many slime mold professional campaign operators, too many spiteful and grudge-bearing has-beens, and too little genuine leadership.
The Republican Party, the Conservative Movement, and the country want the kind of leader who makes, not only our economy, but our politics better, the kind of man who leads and inspires.
If Gingrich and Romney persist in what they’ve been doing, they may yet re-elect Obama.
Emory King sticks up for Newt and proposes a new standard of electoral acceptability for the 2012 Presidential Race.
I have not and will not post anything in support of a candidate for president. They all pass the Daffy Duck test for me and therefore will receive my vote once they secure the nomination. (The Daffy Duck test, by the way, is are they smarter than Daffy Duck and are they not named Obama.) However, pundits assailing Newt are getting on my nerves. Not because he isn’t worthy of criticism, (he is) but because they are trying to tell me he isn’t a conservative. Really. Where exactly were these folks in the eighties and nineties? I was alive then and can’t recall anyone telling me Newt wasn’t a conservative then. If Newt isn’t conservative, why was he used as an example of how the left tries to destroy its opponents in Ann’s book Treason. I quote from page 123 of my copy, ” The left’s enthusiasm for destroying individual lives still sputters to life occasionally, driving their monumental crusades against Newt Gingrich, Ken Starr, and Linda Tripp, for example.” If people don’t want to support Newt for president, I certainly understand why. He isn’t perfect by a long shot. But please don’t sit here and tell me he isn’t on our side of the fence because most of his critics among the chattering class loved the guy in 1994.
Jim Geraghty (via his email morning Jolt) remembers history a bit better than Bob Dole does.
History will record that it was on January 26, 2012 that the Romney campaign high command looked at their tough spot in their battle against Newt Gingrich, and with a steely glint, exchanged knowing, grim looks, and nodded.
The command was given, “Unleash Bob Dole!” (He’s kind of like the Kraken [or the Cryptkeeper].)
I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late. If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices. Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway. . . .
In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it, and I’m not certain he knew either.
The ice bucket was because Congress used to have “ice service,” i.e., taxpayer-funded U.S. Capitol employees had the job of bringing ice to offices that requested it. Newt and the class of 1994 ended that service, modest as the cost was, as a symbol of congressional excess and waste.
How am I the only person who knows this? How is it that I know this and Bob Dole doesn’t?
Erick Erickson is incredulous that Bob Dole is the preferred attack dog of the Romney campaign:
Bob Dole, you will remember from George Stephanoupolos’s memoir of his time in Clinton’s White House, totally cut the legs out from under Newt Gingrich and House Republicans during the government shut down. According to the Democrats, they were within twenty-four hours of caving to the House Republicans’ demands, but Bob Dole surprised them all by caving first.
Dole went on to lose to Bill Clinton and still hates Newt Gingrich for it because Gingrich was the face used to attack Dole — a man who would have been the hero in the fight had Dole not caved.
And we’re supposed to hate Newt Gingrich because Bob Dole caved to the Democrats twenty-four hours before they were going to cave to Gingrich?
Rich Lowry compares the GOP’s favorite unfaithful husband to his former adversary in the White House.
Newt is the Republican Clinton â€” shameless, needy, hopelessly egotistical. The two former adversaries and tentative partners have largely the same set of faults and talents. They are self-indulgent, prone to disregard rules inconvenient to them, and consumed by ambition. They are glib, knowledgeable, and imaginative. They are baby boomers who hadnâ€™t fully grown up even when they occupied two of the most powerful offices in the land.
Steven Gillon, author of The Pact, a book about the Gingrich-Clinton interplay in the 1990s, was struck by their â€œunique personal chemistry, which traced back to their childhoods.â€ Both were raised by distant or abusive stepfathers and surrounded by strong women. Both were drawn to politics and wanted to serve, in Newtâ€™s case on a vast, civilizational scale. Both were allegedly sleeping around on the campaign trail before they had won anything.
Yet their personalities are different. Growing up in an alcoholic household, Gillon notes, Clinton was a natural conciliator. Gingrich was given to defiance. Clinton was gregarious, a people-pleaser. Gingrich was bookish, a lecturer at heart. Clinton made his way in politics in the unfriendly territory of Arkansas; he had to dodge and weave and seduce. Gingrich climbed through the ranks of the House Republican conference; he stood out as a partisan provocateur.
And so he remains today. He utterly lacks the Clinton soft touch. No one will ever consider him a lovable rogue. Quin Hillyer of the American Spectator says heâ€™s the â€œBill Clinton of the Right with half the charm and twice the abrasiveness.â€ Republican voters lit up by his debate performances believe heâ€™s the most electable candidate, even though the three recent national polls show him with a favorable rating in the 20s. Presidents dip that low after they lose a war or before they get impeached. Newt Gingrich starts out there.
And he ends by joining a growing chorus of pundits predicting doom, because Newt Gingrich is just too obnoxious to be electable.
I will readily admit that I am personally biased strongly in favor of excessively talkative, intellectually condescending guys with overly large waistlines, and it’s obviously true that Newt is never going to win the Mr. Congeniality award. Yes, the American voting public does have a decided preference for smooth and handsome guys with positive charisma.
But… I agree with the statements made frequently during the GOP debates that any of the candidates on that stage could defeat Barack Obama. Obama is going into next Fall’s election with an albatross of the US economy around his neck that nobody could overcome. Voters will be desperate and will find a way to justify voting for anybody offering change from the current administration and the current economic mess.
When things really go to pot, the voters will throw the bastards out and give the other side a chance. You doubt it? Let me remind everyone: they elected Richard Nixon twice. Newt Gingrich may not be Cary Grant, but compared to Nixon he is Mr. Charm.
R.L.G., writing in the Economist, wants to see the real ideological opponents square off and come out swinging. I’m with him.
[W]atching Mitt Romney pivot to the centre with the smoothness of a consultant flipping to his next slide, a manoeuvre we can all expect him to execute the minute he wraps up the nomination, will be depressingly predictable. The perception that he will say whatever he feels he must to become president is not founded on sand. Mr Gingrich, by contrast, can almost certainly be counted on to be the same Mr Gingrich we’ve seen in the primaries. Say what you like about the man, but he has ideas, says arresting things, and most of all, would make the clearest possible contrast with Barack Obama in the general election.
While some people groan at his idea for a series of “Lincoln-Douglas” debates, for example, I’d relish the chance to see Mr Gingrich and Mr Obama have long and freewheeling exchanges. …
t I can very easily imagine Mr Gingrich repeating the “food-stamp” line in a general-election debate with Mr Obama several feet away. This would be a natural extension of his claim that journalists asking him questions about the story of the day was “despicable”. He is fearless, reckless, filterless; in any way, -less all of the things Mr Romney has too much of.
I want to see Mr Obama reply to “food-stamp president”, to the idea that annoying appeals courts should be de-funded, to the Gingrich claim that he is the most radical president in history, and so much more. I dread the scripted turns the election will take if Mr Romney is the nominee. I think America could use a straight fight between two boldly different visions of America. I don’t expect I’ll get my wish, but a journalist can dream, anyway.
Byron York explains that this was a case of a nimbler, more effective campaign organization.
Gingrich’s defeat of Romney in South Carolina Saturday was absolutely dominating. Just a week ago, Romney had a solid lead over Gingrich in the polls. On Saturday night, he lost to Gingrich by 12 points — a huge and disastrous swing. Gingrich won 44 of South Carolina’s 46 counties.
How did it happen? For one thing, all the talk about Romney having a hugely superior ground organization turned out not to be true. “They did not do the retail politics that a Santorum and a Gingrich have done over time,” said Kevin Thomas, chairman of the Fairfield County Republican Party. (Thomas was neutral in the race.) “I think Newt’s people, they had more on-the-ground staff, and they worked.” There were a lot of them, too; after Gingrich’s strong showing in the debates, said Susan Meyers, Gingrich’s media coordinator for the Southeast, “We have so many volunteers, our phones are melting right now.”
Gingrich’s campaign was also faster and more nimble than the Romney battleship. “There is a very strong contrast between the two campaign organizations,” said Gingrich adviser (and former George W. Bush administration official) Kevin Kellems. “In military terms, it’s speed versus mass. Newt Gingrich’s operation, and Newt Gingrich as a man, has a great deal of speed — intellectual speed, decisiveness. The Romney campaign is much more about money and size, having hired half of Washington D.C. And sometimes, speed beats mass.”
Ed Rollins says that Mitt Romney never was a conservative and he can’t persuade people now that he is.
Karl Rove thinks Newt Gingrich can thank CNN’s John King.
After Newt Gingrich was declared the winner of the South Carolina primary Saturday night, Karl Rove suggested that the candidate has CNNâ€™s John King to thank for his victory in the Palmetto State.
â€œTaking on the media is always good in a Republican primary,â€ Rove said on Fox News. â€œJohn King couldnâ€™t have set up the question in a more positive way for Gingrich to just nail it and haul it right out of the park.â€
Newt Gingrich has come to remind Bryan Preston of Abraham Lincoln’s response to demands that he dismiss Ulysses Grant because he was notorious for having a drinking problem.
Like a Civil War general once accused of letting his personal problems get in the way of doing his duty, we may not be able to spare Newt Gingrich. He isnâ€™t perfect, far from it. But he fights.
That general later became president despite the accusations against him. For what itâ€™s worth.
Politico (cynically) observes Newt Gingrich’s unique ability to fire up a Republican audience.
The former Massachusetts governorâ€™s awkwardness was underscored at every turn by Gingrichâ€™s fluent, flamboyant performance. Already surging in South Carolina polls, the former speaker won his second standing ovation from a debate crowd in a week and put himself in a position to win Saturdayâ€™s primary with another impressive showing.
By twice castigating one of the rightâ€™s perennial boogeymen â€” the press â€” Gingrich made a gut-level connection with conservatives who think they get a raw deal from the news media.
His blistering response to CNNâ€™s John King about the accusations lodged by Marianne Gingrich might even offer a short-term lift.
â€œWatch it help Newt,â€ predicted former South Carolina GOP Chair Katon Dawson, speaking of the interview Gingrichâ€™s former wife gave to ABC, likening Marianne Gingrichâ€™s claims to the unproven 2010 accusations that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley conducted an extramarital affair. â€œIt looked like they were picking on her.â€…
But the former speakerâ€™s rejuvenation isnâ€™t only a matter of being viewed by conservatives as the latest victim of the press.
Just as he did when he first returned from the political grave last year, Gingrich is finding his voice by appealing to the mad-as-hell wing of the GOP that has been searching for a candidate to match and articulate its anger.
â€œHe does capture where the party is rhetorically,â€ said Republican strategist Jon Lerner, who is unaligned in the race. â€œBut I donâ€™t know if Saturdayâ€™s vote is tantamount to long-term success.â€
â€œNewtâ€™s Rocky Balboa â€” he doesnâ€™t mind fighting,â€ added former Rep. Bob Livingston, a Gingrich adviser, after the debate.
Romney is probably never going to be likened to a brawler and, in the long run, that may serve him well. If he gets the nomination, he may be the one most able to make the general election a referendum on President Obama.