“As a new member of Congress in the Reagan years — and I was an assistant secretary of state — Mr. Gingrich voted with the president regularly, but equally often spewed insulting rhetoric at Reagan, his top aides, and his policies to defeat Communism. Gingrich was voluble and certain in predicting that Reagan’s policies would fail, and in all of this he was dead wrong…

“Today it is fair to look back and ask who had it right: Gingrich, who backed away from and criticized Republican presidents, or those chief executives, who were making difficult and consequential decisions on national security. Bush on the surge and Reagan on the Soviet empire were tough, courageous — and right. Newt Gingrich in retrospect seems less the visionary than the politician who refused the party’s leader loyal support on grounds that history has proved were simply wrong.”

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“Newt Gingrich’s'”work product’ in the Reagan years was and remains highly visible and on the historical record. Unlike Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich was not busy defensively claiming his independence and running from Reagan.

He never failed Ronald Reagan or the cause both believed in so passionately. Newt never wavered, and he always led. ‘Ronald Reagan is the only coherent revolutionary in an administration of accommodationist advisers,’ Gingrich is quoted as saying in Steven F. Hayward’s The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution 1980-1989.

“Whatever the status of Newt Gingrich’s advisers, it is crystal clear that in the narrowing choice between Gingrich and Mitt Romney, it is decidedly Gingrich whose ‘work product’ as a card-carrying member of the Reagan Revolution is repeatedly marked with the contributions of the type that landed him in Michael Evans book of photographs of the most important players of the Reagan era.”

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“Lott said he was speaking out now because he worried about the future of his grandchildren. He said he’d long assumed Gingrich wouldn’t win the nomination. That changed with the former Speaker’s dominant victory Saturday in South Carolina–which made the prospect real…

“When asked whether Gingrich could win an election against Barack Obama, Lott was blunt.

‘I’m sure he wouldn’t, frankly,’ Lott said.”

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“[I]t is quite unlikely that nominating Gingrich would result in a loss anywhere near the Dukakis loss in 1988, let alone the Mondale loss in 1984. Although campaigns and candidate certainly matter, post-WWII elections suggest that the incumbent party will generally lose when the economy is bad and win when it is good. The performances of the Dems in ’84 and ’88 are easily explained by economic factors. Currently, the economic climate does not favor Obama’s reelection. Accordingly, even if you think Gingrich would be a losing candidate, the odds of a blowout seem rather low…

“The point here is not to praise Newt or bury him. Rather, it is to note that if he should somehow become the GOP nominee it would not signal certain disaster in the general election or mark a fundamental shift in the nature of the party. Indeed, it might say nothing more than Republican voters looking at the political environment of 2012 and deciding — rightly or wrongly — that ‘abrasive loose cannon’ is a marginally better brand than ‘animatronic plutocrat.’

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“Republican voters in South Carolina—and, I imagine across the country—are hungry for a candidate who can articulate a proudly conservative message and make an effective case against Barack Obama. Gingrich improvised a different stump speech at nearly every campaign stop—you never knew what to expect. Like a professor, he didn’t dumb down his stump speech to the same several, stale talking points. Many voters who attended as undecideds frequently came away impressed with Gingrich’s depth of knowledge. This goes against Presidential Campaigning 101, but it worked for Gingrich.

“Gingrich may not be like Paul Ryan or Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels in style, but he is in substance. In Aiken, his wonky presentation about health care reform nearly put Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s son Griffin, in attendance, to sleep. But it wowed the audience, who came away thinking Gingrich sounded presidential, reform-oriented, and authentic.”

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“Tea Party voters want a small-government, anti-establishment Washington outsider. Gingrich fails on all three counts.

“Establishment Republicans want an electable candidate. Gingrich fails here, as well.

“Social conservatives want a candidate who reflects their family values. Um…

“So if Gingrich fails to satisfy any of these impulses, I’m left to assume that conservatives are simply out for a good time. They want to be entertained by a Gingrich-Obama slugfest in the general election debates, and they are willing to sacrifice everything — their credibility, their values and the White House — to sit in the Coliseum and watch a Christian get devoured by lions.

“Shame on us. The future of conservatism and the future of the country are bigger than debate-night hijinks. If we conservatives are willing to forgive Gingrich his transgressions, I’m not sure what separates us from liberals.”

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“Look a little deeper, however, and you’ll find Gingrich’s got some significant advantages that should not be underestimated — and could put Obama on his heels in a general election.

“First, Gingrich can engage in all manner of off-the-cuff conversation that would create a sharp contrast with the President, who is likable but often seems like he cycles through policy talking points, then shifts gears to try to connect with people…

“Fourth, Gingrich has an amazing ability to rile up the Republican grass-roots against the financial, intellectual and political elites they believe are responsible for destroying America. Romney, who looks and talks and pays taxes like a privileged person, simply can’t do that. Nor can Obama, since many think he and the mainstream/elite media, whatever that is, are in lockstep…

“And, finally, Gingrich in general is much more cogent and confident than Romney in launching a sweeping, cultural indictment of where the nation is headed — not what Obama wants to hear.”

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“In a world where words have meaning, Mitt Romney is not the ‘moderate’ in this race. He is the most conservative candidate still standing, with the possible exception of Rick Santorum, who is bad on illegal immigration. (Santorum voted in the Senate against even the voluntary use of E-Verify by employers, which means he doesn’t want to do anything about illegal immigration at all.)

“Romney is ‘moderate’ only in demeanor — which is just another word game. His positions are more conservative than Gingrich’s, but he doesn’t scare people like Gingrich does. Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms were moderate in demeanor, too. No one would call them political moderates.

“Romney is the most electable candidate not only because it will be nearly impossible for the media to demonize this self-made Mormon square, devoted to his wife and church, but precisely because he is the most conservative candidate.

“Conservatism is an electable quality. Hotheaded arrogance is neither conservative nor attractive to voters.”

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