"We don't play games": Trump congratulates Newt Gingrich on his Megyn Kelly interview

What percentage of Trump fans thought Gingrich came off badly in last night’s interview, and what percentage of Trump critics thought he came off well? The circles in those Venn diagrams barely touch, I’d guess. These are the two most tribal weeks we’ll see in American politics until late October 2020. Of course a punch-up between a top Trump surrogate and a noted Trump-skeptic reporter is going to be a Rorschach test for whether you want Trump to be president or not.

I wonder if Gingrich went into that interview with a plan to pick a fight or whether it happened organically. Probably the latter — he’s frustrated with the media, he’s surely frustrated with how the campaign has gone (he hasn’t been shy in complaining about “little Trump”), and it boiled over. I’d allow for the possibility, though, that there was a strategic element to it, like a coach getting in the ref’s face to try to fire up his team when they’re trailing. Those who’ve already chosen Kelly’s side in the great Trump/Kelly war won’t be moved by another Team Trump tantrum over her questions about his treatment of women, but remember — this guy won the South Carolina primary four years ago thanks to another well-timed whinge about media bias. Newt knows for a fact that this sort of complaint can be galvanizing for Republicans. And there’s no media figure Trump’s core fans despise more than Kelly after Trump’s initial attack on her following the first primary debate last summer. See, e.g., other Trump surrogates piling on in the aftermath:

It’s a little surprising that Newt, a Fox News contributor, would choose Fox’s biggest name to attack instead of some rando at CNN but maybe that, plus Kelly’s villain status among Trump voters, is just his way of showing Trump that his supreme loyalty is to the campaign, not to the network. In which case all he’s doing is following Hannity’s lead.

Here’s an alternate theory, though. Maybe Gingrich wasn’t trying to fire up the base for the election so much as moving past it and starting the “dolchstoss” phase early:

Note that Trump offered the compliment in the clip below not at a campaign rally but at the grand opening of a new Trump-branded hotel in Washington D.C. this morning, one of several small ways he’s promoted his business ventures (or possible business ventures, like Trump TV) this week. Some reporters raised an eyebrow at this glowing CNN profile of Kellyanne Conway a few days ago, noting that it’s unusual for a campaign manager to sit for something like that in the home stretch of a national campaign unless she’s already looking ahead to future business. Both the NYT and CNN have pieces out this morning about pro-Trump Republicans beginning to shift their attention from Hillary Clinton as public enemy number one to Paul Ryan, with an eye to possibly blocking him as Speaker in the next Congress. Gingrich exploding at Kelly is of a piece with that. She’ll be one of the most prominent villains in the blame-shifting “Trump lost because of the media” narrative after the election, which is partly true but which will be used to obscure the whole truth, namely, that he was wildly undisciplined, didn’t hack it at the debates, and was badly damaged by the “Access Hollywood” tape. Newt’s just laying down a marker early about who stabbed The People in the back, and naturally being rewarded for it by Trump.

Oh, and to answer Scavino’s question/threat in the tweet above: “What happens” to Kelly after this election is that she becomes very, very, very rich.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022