Newt Gingrich: Hopefully I'll be more disciplined

As he rises in the polls, Newt Gingrich hopes neither to repeat the mistakes he’s made in the past nor to repeat the mistakes of those candidates who have preceded him as “rising stars” in the GOP primary — but that won’t necessarily be easy. Gingrich admitted to The Washington Post that self-control has not always been his strong suit:

“That’s true,” said the man who once accused President Obama of having a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. “Hopefully, I’m going to be more disciplined.”

But he insisted: “I’m much more relaxed and more mature than I was 12 years ago. . . . I have had 12 years to rest and to think and to run small businesses.”

One thing he will not do, Gingrich said, is go on the attack against Romney.

“I don’t need to try to get his votes,” he explained. “My campaign is going to focus on substance. My campaign is going to focus on very large proposals, the size of the challenges the country faces.”

So far, Gingrich has stayed focused on his real opponents — the president and, er, the media. But friends told WaPo that he’s particularly apt to lose his stride just when he’s moving along particularly well.

At this point, it’s hard to not see Newt faltering — but less because of anything Gingrich himself has said and done (although there’s plenty to scrutinize, including his proposal to spend billions on brain science research or his past expressions of support for an individual health care mandate and cap-and-trade) than because everybody before him has faltered.

It’s enough to make a pundit ask, “If not Mitt, who? If not now, when?” And, in fact, that’s exactly the question Ann Coulter poses in her most recent column:

So now, apparently, we have to go through the cycle of the media pushing Newt Gingrich. This is going to be fantastic.

In addition to having an affair in the middle of Clinton’s impeachment; apologizing to Jesse Jackson on behalf of J.C. Watts — one of two black Republicans then in Congress –- for having criticized “poverty pimps,” and then inviting Jackson to a State of the Union address; cutting a global warming commercial with Nancy Pelosi; supporting George Soros’ candidate Dede Scozzafava in a congressional special election; appearing in public with the Rev. Al Sharpton to promote nonspecific education reform; and calling Paul Ryan’s plan to save Social Security “right-wing social engineering,” we found out this week that Gingrich was a recipient of Freddie Mac political money. …

The mainstream media keep pushing alternatives to Mitt Romney not only because they are terrified of running against him, but also because they want to keep Republicans fighting, allowing Democrats to get a four-month jump on us.

Meanwhile, everyone knows the nominee is going to be Romney.

That’s not so bad if you think the most important issues in this election are defeating Obama and repealing Obamacare.

That’s a surprising take to me: From what I can tell, it hasn’t been the MSM pushing anybody but Romney. Conservatives have continually sought an alternative. And if the MSM hasn’t been pushing Romney, it’s only because the guy won’t sit for an actually difficult interview any day any time any network. Coulter praises Romney’s ability to speak, but Herman Cain’s most disastrous gaffes haven’t come on the debate stage. Who’s to say Romney wouldn’t stumble before a zealous TV show host or a slippery editorial board? For the record, I doubt he’d ever come across as quite as clueless as Cain or the other candidates have at times — he’s far too practiced for that — but the point is, for all that he’s been the presumed frontrunner for the entire primary season, he hasn’t received any 2012-specific vetting. It’s as if, because he ran in 2008, we have no need to get to know him all over again.

But I’d argue we do — either to dismiss him as the presumed frontrunner or to feel better about him as the nominee. A little more media scrutiny on Romney might accomplish any number of things. It might, for example, reveal he’s actually not the most electable candidate of the crop because he’s not particularly effective at fending off attacks. It might reveal he’s actually more conservative than his present popular image suggests. After all, so far, assessments of Romney have focused far more on his flaws than his strengths. It almost certainly would reveal that he would be a reliable repealer of Obamacare.

Toward the latter two ends, Coulter’s article is a good start: She makes a compelling case for at least granting the candidate his due. I admit I’d still be fearful that (a) Romney would lose to Obama (I don’t trust polls!) or (b) a Romney White House would provide plenty of ammunition against Republicans in future elections. But if he can beat Obama and if he would repeal Obamacare, then, for me, at this point, that’s probably enough. I think those are bigger “ifs” than Coulter assumes, though.