Quotes of the day

“Newt Gingrich is the strongest Republican candidate when matched head to head against Democratic President Barack Obama, according to a McClatchy-Marist Poll released Tuesday.

“The former speaker of the House of Representatives is neck and neck with the incumbent president, back just 2 percentage points among registered voters. Obama leads 47 percent to 45 percent.

“Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is next closest, trailing Obama by 4 percentage points. In that matchup, Obama leads 48 percent to 44 percent.”

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“Herman Cain’s Positive Intensity Score is 17, down from 29 immediately before news broke in late October about past sexual harassment allegations against him. Newt Gingrich, who has made a dramatic turnaround since the summer, saw his score improve further this week, and he now ties Cain for the highest score among the eight major GOP presidential candidates…

“Though Romney’s Positive Intensity Score continues to lag behind those of Cain and now Gingrich, his total favorable ratings — including those with a strong and not strong opinion — are similar. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans familiar with Romney have a strongly favorable or favorable opinion of him, essentially the same ratings as for Gingrich (66%) and Cain (65%) on this measure. The other Republicans’ total favorable ratings range between 51% and 60%. Unfavorable ratings of the candidates range between 24% for Romney and 36% for Perry and Bachmann.”

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“Many GOP strategists are skeptical that a candidate who has been married three times could win the party’s nomination. Another challenge: Mr. Gingrich is only now starting to build a campaign structure.

“He plans to hire a half-dozen staffers in Iowa, an aide said, compared with 10 already working for Mr. Perry in the state and five for Mr. Romney. Mr. Gingrich recently opened a South Carolina office and hired nine staff members, his campaign said. Mr. Romney has three staffers in the state, which votes third for the GOP nomination.

“The campaign is still in debt, though aides say the operation has raised about $3 million since Oct. 1, more than the past two fund-raising quarters combined.”

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“[A] look at his record reveals that Newt is hardly the ‘anti-Mitt’ — he’s Mitt Romney with more baggage and bolder hand gestures.

“Every Gingrich profile proclaims that he’s a dazzling ‘ideas man,’ a ‘one-man think tank.’ It seems that, if you clamor long enough about ‘big ideas,’ people become convinced you actually have them.

“But most of Gingrich’s policy ideas over the last decade have been tepidly conventional and consistent with the Big Government, Beltway Consensus…

“There’s no denying that Newt is smart, but there’s a zany, Cliff Clavin aspect to his intellect. At times, Gingrich, who’s written more than 150 book reviews on Amazon.com, sounds like a guy who read way too much during a long prison stretch.”

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“His problem, rather, is that he is entirely too moderate in this field — and, therefore, in no position to establish himself as the conservative anti-Mitt Romney. The ideas that made him a conservative revolutionary in 1994 make him squishy in 2012

“In 2005, he sat down with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton to make common cause over health care. He said he and Clinton ‘have the same instinct’ on health care and praised the notion of a health-care ‘transfer of finances’ from rich to poor. ‘I risk sounding not quite as right wing as I should,’ Gingrich said at the time. ‘I’ve spent enough of my life fighting,’ he added.

“In 2007, Gingrich appeared with John Kerry and conceded that humans have contributed to global warming, saying, ‘We should address it very actively.’ He complained about ‘the absence of American leadership’ on climate change, pitched incentives to reduce carbon emissions and said: ‘I am not automatically saying that coercion and bureaucracy is not an answer.’ Gingrich called for a ‘green conservatism.’…

“At one point during his dalliance with the Democratic establishment, Gingrich joked that ‘one can gradually rebuild almost any reputation if you pander enough to the authorities that write columns and show up on TV.'”

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“The idea that he’s a serious presidential candidate is preposterous. Even if he were the nominee, he’d get about 44 percent of the vote. He’d say crazy things. He’d reignite the whole Obama-is-a-Kenyan-anticolonialist business. Or he’d think up something newer and weirder. He’d be a disaster. I’d submit that even his home state of Georgia would be in play if he were the nominee. Georgia right-wingers would turn out in droves to support him, for sure. But the state’s left-wingers would turn out in droves to vote against him, and its moderates would probably tilt against him. He could conceivably do worse in a general election than Herman Cain.

“The guy has more baggage than a Stones tour. These poll respondents probably don’t remember the government shutdown or even have any idea it ever happened. They’re also probably not quite fully aware that his wife is his ex-mistress, the woman with whom he was committing infidelity at precisely the same moment he was baying that Bill Clinton had driven America to ruination by doing the same.”

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“It’s not just that the man’s presidential campaign is basically broke; or that he has been, for many decades, a creature of the Washington, D.C., culture that he now decries; or that he looks to be running a glorified book tour with a minimal campaign presence in the critical states. Gingrich, for his opponents, remains a fatally flawed figure, whose character shortcomings are matched only by his incorrigible bluster.

“‘I don’t underestimate any of these candidates,’ said Paul Begala, the longtime Democratic strategist who witnessed Gingrich’s rise to prominence from inside the Clinton White House. ‘It is a tough economy. The president would have a tough race no matter who the nominee. … But every time I hear his bombast, it is a joyful noise unto the world, because voters came to know him 20 years ago and they hated him.’

“‘I don’t discount his intellect or perseverance. He has a lot of tools a politician needs,’ Begala added. ‘But God bless him, the more people get to know him, the less they like him. Voters do not like this man.'”

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