Wednesday, February 1, 2012


In the wake of last night's blow out by the Romney campaign in the Florida GOP Presidential Primary, some, especially those in the Romney camp, might be tempted to write off the chances of a Gingrich Presidency. Aside from the obvious fact that “it aint over till the fat lady sings,” we thought it an appropriate time to outline five reasons why it would be extraordinary foolish to do so prematurely.

1. The Republican field is still very fluid

  If there is one thing this race has shown us so far, with its up today down tomorrow nature in which several different presidential candidates have surged only to fall back into obscurity subsequently, (including Newt Gingrich, who just a week before the Florida primary held a lead in the polls there), is that things can and do change rapidly.

  In spite of Romney's soundly beating Newt among almost every demographic of the primary electorate in Florida, (especially among independents by a margin of 39 points and women by double digits), and finally cracking the salient “40% threshold” critics said he couldn't, the GOP base's still lingering dissatisfaction with Romney over his ostensibly questionable conservative credentials makes anything possible. Accordingly, provided Newt can raise enough money to be competitive and stay in the race through Super Tuesday, it is still possible for him to exploit any stumble by Romney in order to garner enough electoral votes to win the nomination, (or at least force a “brokered” convention in August).

  Indeed, just this morning Twitter was all abuzz about Mitt Romney's allegedly “insensitive and elitist” remarks in a morning interview that he “wasn't concerned with the very poor.” Concededly, he said this in the context of emphasizing the main focus of his campaign on a familiar theme, that of restoring jobs to American to help the beleaguered middle class-- a seemingly uncontroversial position meant to counter Obama's politicking of late with an emphasis on the same-- but it was immediately pounced on as just the sort of “verbal slip” that would be class-warfared to maximum advantage by President Obama in the Fall, (and maybe by Mitt's primary opponents before then).

  Such verbal “gaffes” could undoubtedly be repeated by the liberal leaning media in such a way as to have a devastating effect on a damaging narrative already hinted at by opponent Newt Gingrich's attacks on Romney for his alleged “role” in the housing crisis through his Bain Capitial connections and holdings in Fannie Mae. Even more damaging, they feed into a larger narrative that President Obama and the liberals would like to drive home, i.e., that Mitt is a rich, greedy elitist out of touch with the common American, (if Newt doesn't do it first).

  And while the actual merits of such a claim seems to have been soundly rejected by the GOP faithful in Florida, (and even caused a backlash of sorts to Newt as Mitt has pointedly responded, “I don't apologize for being successful” and stated the obvious, i.e., rather than encouraging this class warfare narrative of the Democrats we ought to be rewarding people who dare to dream and create a better life for themselves and their families (and thus lift everyone's boats in the process, Steve Jobs is a good example of this).  Indeed, such a belief in Free Enterprise and its associated dream of upward mobility for all Americans used to be a core Republican ideal shared in common with all wings of the party!

  What this potential shift says for the future of the GOP is uncertain, but the fact of the effectiveness on the general electorate of such a claim in times of economic hardship is potentially explosive. Indeed, such a claim could potentially gain traction among the ranks of the disaffected and displaced which this Administration has done everything it can to woo, (from increasing social services to ensuring maximum political participation by taking legal action to prevent states like S. Carolina from implementing voter ID laws which are alleged to disenfranchise minorities and the poor).  Unfortunately, in this sense such claims and populist attacks of Newt on the alleged rich and elitist Mitt can only hasten the acceptance of this socialist fiction and play into the Democrats hands in November; indeed all Obama will have to do is play an endless loop of Newt's claims to the great disadvantage of the party, and more importantly, the country, (particularly if it helps Obama to win re-election, as others have also pointed out, see HERE and here).

  Of course, it is doubtful if such a claim can accurately, if effectively, be made against a candidate whose tax returns show he gives, on average, over 13% of his income to charity every year. But presidential campaigns have been lost on lessor gaffes, and only go to show that this race is still very, very fluid, and one in which literally anything can happen. Especially when such attacks come from one so rhetorically gifted as Newt Gingrich.  Which brings us to the second of our points why the Romney camp ignoring Newt upon its "victory" in Florida does so at its peril. 

2.  Newt is a resilient and wiley campaigner and framer of issues.

  Newt has shown again and again, that regardless of the potential damage to the broader Republican party of feeding into a Democrat narrative of the Republicans as the “party of the rich” that can only aid in the effectivness of Obama's class warfare rhetoric, he is more than capable of moving to the left and/or utilizing such populist themes to his great advantage, (remember his Nancy Pelosi couch ad on global warming and his support, as recently as May of 2011, of the same health care mandates he now denounces?  Ahh the short term political memory of the American people in the age of 30 second soundbites!)

  Indeed, in listening to the candidates's speeches following last night's primary results, one thing that struck me was Newt's unending ability to connect with the voters by using direct, emotional appeals to the “common” American; (never mind that, he, as all Republicans running, with the possible exception of Rick Santorum, are Millionaires with a 401k balance that would seem foreign to most Americans).

  As if the point needed proving, a review of Newt's twenty minute (concession?) speech in which he repeatedly stated such things as “This campaign will prove that 'people power' beats 'money power,'” “We will, with your help, show the world that ideas matter,” and “We will return Washington away from the career politicians and bureaucrats and back to the people,” (not exact quotes but similar such things), aptly demonstrates that his ability to move the masses with populist rhetoric has not waned, but if anything, has accelerated in his bid for the Presidency.

  Moreover, judging from his previous successes coming back from the brink of destruction in June of last year and his low numbers in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests largely on the basis of his debate performances, (as well as those of his entire political career as speaker of the house), Newt has shown he is an apt campaigner with a knack for one-liners that can re-frame such issues to his own advantage in a way few others are capable of.  Indeed, if nothing else is clear in Florida's aftermath, make no mistake that Newt is a master politician who can say what he needs in language that connects to the crowd he is speaking to like few other politicians today.

  Such connecting and “think on your feet” skills are noticeably lacking in Romney who tends to stick to carefully scripted remarks, (which in light of this morning's developments might be a good thing!), and, to a lessor extent, Santorum, (the other serious contender for the GOP nod).  As such, and if history is any guide in the age of mass media, it would be a serious mistake to count Newt out just yet.

3.  Newt's legislative experience and accomplishments as speaker

  The third reason it would be a mistake to dismiss Newt's campaign as "toast," at least at this point, would be Newt's significant experience as speaker of the House, (particularly his role in electing a Republican majority for the first time in 40 years in 1994 and implementation of vast portions of the Contract with America with Bill Clinton in the White House).  Such accomplishments speak to his ability to get work with Congress and show that he understands the Legislative process.

  True enough, the same could probably be said of Mitt Romney, who served as Governor of Democratic Massachusetts in an executive role arguably more akin to the Presidency, but Newt's role in the 90's is still remembered, especially to a large swath of conservatives in the party, as responsible for significant policy changes in the Contract, including welfare reform (which President Clinton, due to his own troubles and the popularity of such reforms, was essentially forced to go along with).

  As a result, and in spite of the government shutdowns which also came with Newt's sometimes abrasive style and his sudden departure amidst ethical lapses, many in the conservative base still think fondly of his days as speaker in their hopes Newt can bring the same kind of reform to Washington in the new Millenium. (Of course, it remains to be seen whether the risk of Newt's other "unknowns," such as his penchant for women and multiple affairs, might yield other unpleasant surprises come the Fall which could potentially be devastating to the GOP ticket, especially when contrasted by the MSM with Obama's “family man” image, something that must also fairly be considered.)

4.  Newts aggressive and well defined policy prescriptions for Washington reform

  Fourth in this list of reasons one cannot quite write off Newt's chances for the Presidential nomination of the Republican party following the Florida primary are Newt's well outlined and thought-out policy prescriptions on issues that matter to a large portion of the American electorate, (including this organization). In addition to more typical Republican fare such as promises to streamline the federal bureaucracy, and reduce federal regulation and taxes, issues like reigning in an out-of-control “imperial” judiciary play well to the base and give the impression that Gingrich is a man unafraid to tackle what's needs fixing. And rightly or wrongly, whether you agree with his prescriptions for what ails America, many Americans, and certainly Republicans, are tired of the same old same old in Washington and yearn for someone who will actually refuse to settle for “business as usual.”

  This "reformist" flavor was on full display in last night's speech, as Newt reeled off several issues on his “to do” list for the first few hours after his inauguration which appeal to the party faithful in a way that seemed earnest and credible.

  Such a performance, while at the same time declaring “I will be the party's nominee come August,” some might consider incongruent with his-- at least numbers wise-- astounding loss in the primary, which at once illustrates his tenacity, (and/or much ballyhooed “grandiosity"), on an evening in which one might think he would be more subdued. (Indeed, some have pointed out how starkly Newt's refusing to even congratulate Romney on the Florida win might even evidence a lack of common political courtesy, or perhaps vindictiveness for the onslaught of negative ads he has faced in this contest, funded particularly from Romney's "Superpac" in Iowa and again in Florida).

  Again, however, such theatre seems particularly well-designed to appeal to the right wing of the party and serves in the minds of many to illustrate his persistence and/or dedication to the conservative cause, (which in many ways and at diverse times in our history has always been the scrappy underdog in the rough and tumble barnyard rabble that politics always is, at least since Barry Goldwater days).

5. Newt's debate skills

  Last but not least, we would be remiss not to mention Newt's above-referenced debate skills which are largely credited with his coming back from the political dead last time around in S. Carolina. While it is true that Newt's less-than-stellar Florida debate performances had an impact on the outcome on Florida, we are not convinced that the closed primary and a hankering for an reliable, “electable” candidate didn't play equal roles in his sunshine state defeat, (where Democrats couldn't play the spoiler as they could in S. Carolina's “open” primary).

  In any event, any shortcomings in Newt's Florida debate performances we feel are surely temporary and, as some have speculated, due perhaps to a desire to not come across as “angry” at the insistence of campaign advisors.  Regardless of the cause, this results in a disconnect with the perceived personality of a candidate who has become famous for his willingness to bluntly challenge all comers, especially the "liberal" main stream media, much to the delight of tea party conservatives, and his "kinder, more subdued" debate performance in Florida.  This, of course, creates a sort of "credibility gap" with what the voters thought was Newt and what he demonstrated in his Florida debate performances that results in an even more negative perception on swing voters than his usual irascible self.

   This has undoubtedly not been lost on Newt, who, following last night's loss, is not likely a mistake Newt will make again. Unfortunately for Newt however, there is not another debate scheduled until Feb. 22 in which he can restore his credibility and prove that his Florida performances were just a hiccup. (Which means, practically speaking, Newt's survival in the meantime comes down to that most arbitrary and leveling of all factors; money!)


  Of course whether Newt can raise sufficient funds to continue in turn depend on to what extent his fiery and policy laden "concession" speech-- if one can call a speech in which Newt didn't "concede" anything a "concession speech"!--  and internet appeals for funds meets with success, and to a lessor extent, the impact of factors beyond his control, (such as any drop from the race and an ensuing endorsement of other candidates such as Ron Paul or even more cash-strapped Rick Santorum who might be expected to endorse Romney after his reference in his own speech to the "nominee becoming the issue" in November). On such matters we shall have to see.

  However, due to the above factors it would be a serious mistake to count Newt out just yet, (as we ourselves might have done just a couple days ago, and majority of the media seem to be doing).

  While undoubtedly he still remains the clear underdog, if-- and it is certainly a big if-- Mr. Gingrich can raise enough money to stay in the race through Super Tuesday and make it through the next round of debates, there is a chance, however slight, that he could still become the GOP's nominee to face Obama in the fall. That's not to say that such an outcome should happen or would be good, bad, or even in line with our preferences for Romney, (who we still think, in spite of his recent stumbles, remains the favored and all-around best general election candidate, a matter really irrelevant to the question here under discussion).  Indeed, though we have been frank with our positions on the issues and the need for a candidate who can pull independents as well as unify the party if the GOP is going to have any chance of limiting Barack Obama to a single term, due to the strengths of Gingrich here pointed out we can not rule out that he could not still become the party's nominee.  It is just one possibility in the realm of possibilities that seems slightly more likely now than we otherwise foresaw a few short days ago, and a development we felt warranted informing our readers of.

  Regardless how this roller coaster ride turns out, one thing's for sure that will likely not break the pattern thus far in the political season: for political watchers it should be a very exciting February! jp

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