“‘What you don’t know yet is whether one of us can run the table, in which case it gets over early; or whether, because of proportional representation, you’re into what happened to Hilary and Obama, and you’re still slugging it out in May and June,’ Gingrich said in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader last week.
“‘And I think you’ve got to prepare for both.’
“A big question about Gingrich is whether he can, in fact, prepare for either. Especially in terms of his organization, Gingrich is way behind the other candidates. Romney has been preparing and organizing for years, building on the infrastructure of the 2008 campaign…
“‘I have to be in the top three in Iowa and the top three in New Hampshire. I’d like to be first in Iowa and first in New Hampshire, and we’ll see. But I have to be in the top three. I think if we go south, and I am a viable candidate, I’ll win South Carolina, and I think that just changes the environment for Florida,’ he said.”
“Gingrich doesn’t project electability or character in the sense we usually mean. ‘Character’ is what you want your daughter to marry. You don’t want your daughter to marry Newt. Nor does he have the purity of inexperience — Gingrich isn’t like Palin or Herman Cain. He’s an insider’s insider, with all the dirt and baggage that connotes.
“But Gingrich does project a terrifying authority of policy knowledge. Voters have been warming to Gingrich because he’s right — about the budget, about Social Security reform, about plenty of other substantive themes he’s elaborated on since the debates began…
“What happened? Not long ago, everyone was sure that Gingrich’s geekiness and personal baggage were fatal…
“What happened was that times changed — and in ways that ‘the establishment,’ as Gingrich calls it, reviving an old label, hasn’t yet absorbed. The policy stakes are higher now than they were in the last election. If we don’t sort through our fiscal troubles fast, the U.S. will look like Greece. If we don’t figure China out fast, it may become our next great enemy. And the paralysis in Washington is only intensifying.”
“One can easily imagine that if the ship of state were on a fine course — if what one needed was simply a competent manager to steer the nation and make minor adjustments — Romney might be a perfect fit. But during times of crisis, normal thinking and normal leadership often fails. In these instances, the times call for someone who thinks big — or, at least — differently. In this regard, Gingrich — a manic eccentric who, like Churchill, spent time in the political wilderness — might have found his moment.
“Gingrich and Romney couldn’t be more different. Gingrich questions authority, challenges conventional wisdom, and disputes premises. He also has fun. He is winsome. He can be undisciplined. He enjoys politics, and seems to gain energy from engaging in the battles. Romney, on the other hand, is a consummate ‘adult.’ He is highly disciplined. He plays by the rules, accepts reality as it is, and then — within those confines — sets about fixing things as best he can. Either governing strategy can work — depending on what the times call for. The argument, however, is that these times call for bigger, more radical, unconventional solutions.”
“I suspect and fear that Newt will interpret his comeback incorrectly and see his new front-runner status as proof he can discard all of the lessons-learned from his flame-out earlier this year. This is the moment where it’s going to be hardest for Gingrich to restrain his Newtness. This is the moment where perceived vindication breeds hubris. Already, he’s talking about teaching an online course from the White House, bragging that Obama can use teleprompters in their debates and trying to run as a general election candidate on immigration.
“On their own, these are all fine even laudable. But when combined, among some Newt-watchers, they feel like omens that World Historical Newt is returning to the scene. He should fight that temptation and keep his nose to the grindstone.”
“As Speaker of the House, Gingrich was notorious for his indiscipline. Where he does excel is in the use of rhetoric to divide and provoke. Take, for example, his musing last September in front of reporters: ‘What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behaviour, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? … That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behaviour.’
“Back in the 1990s, Gingrich made himself one of the most disliked figures in the recent history of American politics. As American political commentator Jay Cost reminds us, within 24 months of becoming Speaker, Gingrich had forced a shutdown of the federal government and sunk to an approve/disapprove rating of negative 25. There Gingrich languished through ethics challenges, impeachment and the revelation that he’d been carrying on an extra-marital affair while attacking Bill Clinton’s own sexual misconduct.
“A Gingrich presidency, if such a thing can even be imagined, would be a chaotic catastrophe. A Gingrich nomination would yield an Obama landslide.”
“Union Leader editorial page editor Andrew Cline said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ on Sunday that Romney is a ‘very play-it-safe candidate’ which is not what America needs right now. ‘Perhaps in the late 19th century, perfect.’…
“‘I’m really not sure precisely what we get out of a President Romney — who might very well be a good president — but we don’t really know,’ he said. ‘Given the choice between the candidate who wants to be liked and the candidate who wants to be respected, we would rather have the guy who wants to be respected.'”
“Clinton said that Romney did ‘a very good job’ as governor of Massachusetts and would be a credible general election candidate. But Clinton added that Romney or any Republican nominee would be hampered by ‘a political environment in the Republican primary that basically means you can’t be authentic unless you’ve got a single-digit I.Q.‘”
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