Newton Defies Gravity
In any reasonable universe, Newt Gingrich would not be a serious contender for the
Republican presidential nomination. Yet now we have a
in New Hampshire showing him to be in a statistical tie with front runner Mitt Romney. If true, this is a
For at least a year, three quarters of the Republican voters have made it clear they do not want Mitt Romney
as their nominee, despite the fact that he has an excellent chance of beating President Obama next November. He might
even have enough coattails to flip the Senate and give the Republicans control of the White House and Congress. But
Romney is not a fire-breathing conservative, so many conservative voters have been desperately searching for another standard bearer.
Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain have all been tried and found wanting, basically all due
to personal flaws. With the exception of Perry, none of them were even serious candidates since major parties
virtually always nominate people who have previously held high elected office (usually Vice Presidents, governors,
or senators) or who are popular generals who have won wars.
Gingrich is different from the others (except Perry) because he is an experienced politician who once held the
third-highest office in the country: Speaker of the House. That would automatically make him a serious candidate
were it not for two things. First, he hasn't held public office for 13 years. Second, he has more baggage than a
fully loaded Boeing 747-400.
While the first point doesn't help, it is not necessarily fatal. Abraham Lincoln was elected President 12
years after his one and only term in the House had finished. The second point is far worse. From the Democrats'
point of view, Gingrich is a target-rich environment. Some of the many things they could (and if he is the
nominee, will) attack are:
- His two very messy divorces
- His affair with a young staffer while attacking Bill Clinton for his affair with an intern
- His fine of $300,000 from the full House for an ethics violation
- His leading the unpopular government shutdown in 1995
- His $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany & Co, an upscale jeweler
- His role at Freddie Mac, for which they paid him $1.6 million over 10 years
Most of these, and other items, have been known for years, but the voters desperately searching
for the not-Romney don't seem to care. The thing that could make Gingrich different from the other
failed not-Romneys is the potential to win the New Hampshire primary. If Romney does not compete in
Iowa--and so far he doesn't appear to be--then a Gingrich win there would not mean much. But a
Gingrich win in a state Romney was expected to win by 20 or 30 points would be devastating and lead
to a Gingrich win in conservative South Carolina 11 days later. At that point we could have a nasty
two-man race that could go on for months and weaken the eventual winner.
Another factor to keep in mind is Ron Paul. While he is not going to win the nomination, he might
stay in the race until the end and continue to collect delegates. If Romney and Gingrich each went into
the convention with fewer than 50% of the delegates, Paul would become kingmaker. Alternatively, Paul
could drop out of the Republican contest and run as a third-party candidate, something he did in 1988
on the Libertarian ticket. Should he do this, he could easily play the role Ralph Nader had in 2000,
drawing enough votes to guarantee the election of the person his supporters most hate (in Paul's case,
Obama). Paul is 76 not running for Congress this year, so this is his last hurrah. He might decide to
make it a big one.
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