Romney and Gingrich are going to blow up the GOP

I asked another senior GOP professional with decades of experience measuring party intrigue; he pointed to the negative campaigning as the telltale cause. “Negative advertising, why does it exist? It exists because it’s been proven to work. So Gingrich went negative on Romney on the Bain attacks and brought Romney down in South Carolina. The Romney campaign decided they’ve got to fire back in kind, calling Gingrich an influence peddler and a guy with ethics problems. The result is to create a cumulative effect of slime and dirt and muck attached not only to the two candidates but also to the party itself, as a party that fundamentally lacks seriousness about what’s centrally on people’s minds, which is the state of the economy—especially among independent voters, who keep rising; apparently they’re up to 40 percent of the electorate. This is off-putting. You know, Republicans may say we’re having an internal struggle, Newt represents something we believe in and so forth … Still, they’re running the risk of damaging the Republican brand.”…

“There comes a point in the party’s desperation and anxiety,” the senior Republican observer told me, “that it has just got to be weighing on some of these individuals who didn’t get in.” We were discussing the could-have-been GOP A team—New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, even telegenic puppies Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. “I would not be shocked if one of them woke up and said, ‘I’ve got to do it.’ Still, you’ll arrive in June, with one or the other, most probably Romney, with a winning number of delegates, and that’s it. Unless they get off this negative cycle and start offering voters a positive view of what their party represents, they’ve run the risk of terminating this thing earlier than it needs to.

I asked a veteran Republican member of Congress what this year looked like from Capitol Hill following the President’s workman-like State Of The Union address. “A year from now, the president will make the same speech, and the House leaders will still think what they’re doing matters, and the Senate will still be where everything goes to die. No change except I’ll say, ‘Mitt who?’”