Free Markets, Free People

The Newtron bomb and plastic, fantastic Mitt

Yesterday, on our podcast, Dale, Michael and I talked for quite some time about the significance of Newt Gingrich’s win in South Carolina.

Does it foretell a Gingrich nomination?   Probably not … or at least not necessarily.  What it may signal, more than anything, is that the GOP voter doesn’t want some timid nominee who is mostly in a prevent defense mode.  Or Mitt Romney as he has presently evolved.

I was under the mistaken impression that the interminable debates were really not having much of an effect.  The South Carolina debates and results changed that impression for me pretty dramatically.

What Gingrich accomplished, with those two debates, was electorally remarkable.  He literally changed the course of a primary that all the polls told us was Romney’s – and pretty comfortably too.

The big question though is what does it all mean?  After all there are many ways to interpret this primary result.

Perhaps the biggest take-away may be that voters want a fighter.   They’re tired of the apologies for what they believe.  They want someone who is, as Michael described Newt, “unapologetic” about their conservatism.

The question that then follows is, does that mean they want Newt?

That’s actually a complicated question.  Gingrich certainly was the choice in South Carolina after his “unapologetic” debate performances.  But, per the polls, he wasn’t their choice prior to them.  So has Newt suddenly become acceptable as a candidate or was it primary voters really expressing their dissatisfaction with the rest of the field and using Newt as their surrogate example of why?

I frankly think it is the latter.  Quin Hillyer described Newt as the “Bill Clinton of the right, half the charm and twice the abrasiveness”.

If you’ve at all followed Newt Gingrich’s career you understand the truth of HIllyer’s description.  Gingrich is, in political terms, a human hand grenade.  In his previous life as a minority member of Congress, he was a designated bomb thrower.   He has, many times in his career, managed to insert his foot in his mouth to such a depth that he’s killed the impetus of whatever good thing he had going at the time.

However, in the South Carolina debates, he said what many conservatives have been longing to hear said.  And he also did something that conservatives love – he smacked the mainstream media, not once but twice. 

But is that enough to carry  him through the nomination process to victory?  That’s the pregnant question.  Will voters tire of him quickly?  Will Romney again reinvent himself as a fighter for conservative values? 

One of the theories out there is that voters have factored Newt’s baggage into their calculations about the man and have decided, the hell with it.  But Conn Carroll reminds us that for the most part, ‘America hates Newt Gingrich’.  His negatives far outweigh his positives and he runs poorly against Obama.

Of course, he was running poorly against Romney in South Carolina until a few days ago.

The other question about Gingrich is can he manage to discipline himself enough to somehow avoid doing or saying something which would doom his run for the nomination and/or his candidacy should he win the nomination?  My guess is, if there was a betting line established on that question, the odds wouldn’t favor Newt at all.

Finally, there’s the question of how the big middle – the independent voter – will react to Newt.  While he may, at least for the moment, satisfy conservative voters, they won’t win the election for the right.  The premise of the Romney campaign, at least viewed from here, is that their primary goal must be to woo indies because, in their calculation, conservative voters will eventually come into the fold when it is clear that Romney is the inevitable nominee.

I don’t think that calculation is necessarily wrong, but it is very unattractive to conservative voters.   And what the Romney team doesn’t seem to understand is that these primaries, unlike the general election, are where political activists and conservatives are much more likely to show up than independent voters.  And, of course, if you can’t get past the primaries, how acceptable you’ve made yourself to indies is really a moot point, isn’t it?

So Florida just became a lot more interesting.  As did the debates that are going to happen in the state.  We should see at least some of the questions I’ve posed answered there, or at least be given a hint as to their eventual answer.

Is Newt the one or will he eventually bomb.   And will we see plastic fantastic Mitt Romney reinvent himself yet again in an attempt to defuse the Newtron bomb?

All this and more, coming to a state near you soon.


Twitter: @McQandO

20 Responses to The Newtron bomb and plastic, fantastic Mitt

  • I know there is a big Anyone But Obama meme in conservative circles, but i didn’t think they really meant anybody. Romney has proven himself to be an effective executive, but lacking pure conservative ideals the fallback at the moment appears to Gingrich, who also lacks pure conservative ideals, but is willing to aggressively go after perennial conservative boogiemen, the media and minorities.
    While Romney clearly has an eye toward to the necessity of the move to the middle for the general, Newt seems content to appeal exclusively to the base for now, and I expect make numerous flip flops later to woo the indies. In either case, either the base or the middle is going to be left scratching their heads and asking whether the guy in the primaries will be governing, or the guy in the general. Obama is not going to have a particularly enthusiastic base, until the candidate in the general is finally named, then liberals will have the enthusiasm gap closed when they, like conservatives, who are not so enamored of their own candidate, but will have someone to vote against.
    Obama will get as much of his base as the Romgrich, but i think the Romgrich is either going to lose their base or lose the middle, because there is a wide chasm between moderate and conservative, so much so that the actual negative ads in the primaries actually use “moderate” as an attack line. The GOP has a gun aimed at both feet, the only real question is which foot they are going to shoot themselves in.

    • I mostly agree except the last part. The chasm between the middle and the Obama left wing is far greater than the difference between the middle and the conservatives. Furthermore, the more conservative Republican usually does better in the general than moderates. That is why we had no Ford or Bush Sr. second terms, and no Dole or McCain presidency. Of course with Newt you can throw all of that out because He is virtually unelectable. @CaptinSarcastic

      • @kyle8 That is an interesting perspective, that you believe that the difference between the base on the left is farther from the middle than the base on the right. I imagine there are polling statistics that might help clarify where these differences are greatest. I think the most basic reality supports my point of view, that being the mere existence of a significant number of “Blue Dog” Democrats. There is no corresponding phenomena in the GOP, there is no moderate faction of the GOP, and to the extent impure conservatives are still in office, they are considered RINO’s, and are to be eliminated, sometimes at the cost of the seats themselves (Castle, Bennett, Christ, and soon perhaps Romney). Obama is FAR from a purist liberal (though opponents love to frame it that way). Obama can argue for reduced regulations and business friendly initiatives and even start wars without completely alienating the base, whereas what conservative could argue for more social spending or regulating Wall Street, or as Ron Paul has found, supporting a non-interventionist policy, without becoming a pariah?

        • @CaptinSarcastic @kyle8 The moderate faction of the GOP should in theory exist in purple or blue states, but what happens is they become Democrat Lite and then lose to a Democrat later on.

          “Obama can argue for reduced regulations and business friendly initiatives and even start wars without completely alienating the base, whereas what conservative could argue for more social spending or regulating Wall Street, or as”

          Sure. It helps when the media is on your side 110% of the time, and when your base accepts what you do as “because of obstructionism” or “because he really does support gay marriage but…” or “its okay when we kill brown people or pass laws that give the state more power.” That called partisanism over priniciple, and it happens to everyone, but I suspect the pliant media make it easier for Dems to get away with. Obama’s scandals are not front page for 120 days straight at the NY times, etc.

          ” Ron Paul has found, supporting a non-interventionist policy, without becoming a pariah?”

          Because Ron Paul has racist newsletters and believes we’re causing the problems with Iran. You will remember Buchanan the isolationist also ended up being tarred a racist by the media and probably was one.

        • @Harun @kyle8 Actually, I don’t think the racist accusations hurt Paul with the base, heck, they seem to help Newt. I was talking about his non-intervention policies that got booed on stage by a GOP audience.

        • @CaptinSarcastic @kyle8 The Democrats have a far left base with a moderate faction, while the Republicans have a moderate base and a far-ring faction. Lieberman went from being the VP candidate to losing the primary because he didn’t toe the line when the party narrative changed (instead speaking in favor of the way they were still voting).

          Liberals think ABC, CBS and NBC News are moderate (even after ordering reporters to favor Democrats, reporting obvious fraud as fact and having an anchor admit he thought it was his job to get Obama elected); but FOX is considered far right.

          The pervasiveness of the narrative is even evident in the examples Cap gave. Business friendly initiatives at a time when both parties are stressing job growth is moderate, but talking about them is pushing stressing the base for a Democrat (never mind that his actions have been exactly the opposite). Isolationism and adding even more debt at a time of record deficits are both decidedly left, so they don’t gain much traction with moderates. Yet a liberal views them as moderate ideas.

        • @CT Phil @kyle8 A Republican cannot offer an olive branch to the President in any sort of compromise while the President can easily and successfuly offer compromise to the Republicans. Obama can say let’s raise the top tax rate from 36% on income on the last dollar starting at $388k to 39% (that’s his base appeal) and then he can turn around and say and let’s reform entitlement programs (something his base opposes, but won’t dump him for). There is not one single Republican (except John Boehner, who quickly found out he had zero power to compromise) that could make the inverse statement without be crushed by his base. The GOP says we have a spending problem, not a tax problem. The Democrats say we have a tax problem AND a spending problem. Do you see why many would feel that one side is more moderate than the other? If you think I am wrong, show me Democrats in Congress who do not supporting cutting the budget, or show me Republicans in Congress who favor raising taxes on the rich. This is not media spin, this is a party held hostage (and by extension a country) to a rigid, unbending ideology even in opposition to majorities of citizens in their own party. 54% of rank and file Republicans support ending the Bush tax cuts for the top tier and a whopping 72% across the board. So Republicans are being led by less than half their party, and a tiny minority of the citizens. I expect you are among that minority, but thinking you are mainstream doesn’t make it so.

        • @CaptinSarcastic The Democrats SAY only they compromise and they will cut spending, but the facts show exactly the opposite. The Republicans have repeatedly given olive branches to the Democrats (extended unemployment, payroll tax cut deal, debt ceiling), but there have been no corresponding spending cuts. When revenues hit all-time highs in 2007-08 after the Bush tax cuts, the deficit was still going up twice as fast as the years prior because Democrats in Congress controlled spending. Only 11 of the 244 Democrats in the House voted against massive spending increases in 2009. Only 34 voted against permanent massive spending increases in 2010. Not a single Democrat has offered to cut spending to less than what the Government took in during 2008
          You show a deep devotion to the narrative. Unfortunately, constant media support for liberal lies has allowed many to feel like the Democrats are moderate, but claiming you are mainstream doesn’t make it so.

  • And this is the issue causing bloodsport among the various commenting factions over at Ace’s place. The fact is Newt cannot win the general. PERIOD. And he’s damaged Romney enough that I don’t know if HE can win the general either. The central assumption is correct though – we want someone who’ll take it to Obama, because that’s the way to win. I’m holding out hope for a brokered convention myself at this stage, throw the whole lot of them out with the bathwater (including Ron Paul and his loon nation) and get someone else.

  • Romney is the perfect personification of the “1%” that Obama has been railing against for the last year or more. Democrats want him because is is predictable, if nothing else.

    Now I’ve belittled Newt on this blog some months ago, so I’m no “Newt lover.” That said, we have to go to war with the army or candidate who signed up.

    Ron Paul is your crazy uncle. From some reports, he has a bunch of followers who have signed on as Romney delegates, at least for the first vote. If true, Paul is hoping against hope that there will be a brokered convention.
    Santorum used to be my Senator. I even loved for him. I just can’t see him as President.

    So I’m left with Newt and Mitt.

    Mitt fulfills the typical Republican need to give the nomination to the “next guy in line”. He is the “Bob Dole redux” updated for the political tripe of 2012. Newt is right that Obama will laugh at him. Team Obama won’t go after Bain directly, but rather they will use the companies that Bain euthanized to their advantage. I won’t matter that most of those that died would have if Bain and every other PE firm had stayed clear. Mitt will be a footnote to the discussion.
    I now look at Newt as the “Pucky Comic Relief.” Frankly, anybody without a Leftist bent will be better than Chance Gardener Obama.

    I’ve read the stories that Newt really isn’t that great of a debater, but as far as I can see, Obama has never met one either. John “I’m just too damn polite” McCain never gave Obama a run for his money. I see the key as if you can get Obama visibly angry, he is toast. I think Newt can do that.

    • If Newt is the nominee, I see Santorum as the VP. Most importantly, he hails from PA, the keystone state, for more reasons than one. The other reason is that no Leftie in their right mind would ever “off” President Newt so the nation could have President Santorum.

  • America hates Newt for the same reason they think Sarah Palin is stupid, it’s been hammered into the national psyche by the media, late night comedians,TV pundits and those on the Right who seek to curry favor from them. Why? Because last time Newt was in power he kicked the Left’s collective ass and they will never forgive him for it.

  • This is why America is finished.

    Newt is insincere in his Conservatism and Romney, although a little fuzzy, is overall sincere in his “Just Right of Center”-ism. So I say that’s a wash on how they’d preside.

    Newt was run out of Washington Politically. He was run out. And now I find out it wasn’t from the money he shouldn’t have taken that we know about. Its from the money he shouldn’t have taken that we have not been told about, yet. But apparently Pelosi knows. He’ll be done within about 6 weeks of the convention. It will be over.

    So people want to see Newt get in Obama’s grill more than they want someone to actually remove him. I guess people want to act emotionally on satisfying their spite more than they want to act intellectually for their best interest. Yep, we’re done.

    • Oh, and to me the irony will be that the way the debates will be structured, he won’t be given much of a chance to get up in Obama’s grill. And whatever chance he’s given, he more likely won’t take it when he’s no longer in front of the choir. He might take it to him, but I don’t expect more than a few jabs.

      I predict that he will agree to the format that will limit his chance do it. Gingrich dodges the situation and can get the choir to lament about the media tying his hands.

    • @jpm100 Yep.

  • Chris Christie is not ready to run, but would have been perfect in this fighter role.

    Pawlenty is probably slapping himself for withdrawing so early.

    Paul Ryan is pretty articulate, but he did buy that expensive bottle of wine.