Friday, December 2, 2011

The Gingrich Bubble

Donald Trump
Michele Bachmann
Rick Perry
Herman Cain
Newt Gingrich

So it looks like a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. But remember, just a month ago, nobody but Romney and Cain could break 20%. And three months ago, it was nobody but Romney and Perry, with Perry the presumed front-runner. So don't get too excited. That being said, the voting starts in a month, and there isn't much time for Gingrich to fade and be replaced by Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, or whoever else is left.

Why should we expect Gingrich to fade? Because he's damaged goods. He's only polling well because he performed well in the debates, where he was better-informed, more forthright, and less catty than anybody else on the set. Those are not, unfortunately, Gingrich's most universally described character traits.

Conservative Jennifer Rubin wields the knife, with quotes from Ramesh Ponnuru:
very serious flaw... perils of Gingrich... innovative-sounding... wholly absurd... incendiary... grandiose... abrasive... opportunist... serial infidelity... multiple ex-wives... lobbying... lobbying... lobbying... ultimate Washington insider... self-indulgent... obtuse... dishonest... megalomania... recklessness... disorganization.
Her argument is a lot more nuanced than what I've presented. But this particular list of flaws seems a lot more damning, especially in the current political environment, than Romney's wishy-washyness or over-produced image. More to Rubin's point, conservative opinion leaders have already turned on Gingrich, and conservative voters will follow.


taoist said...

The difference between Gingrich and the others (w.r.t. his flaws) is that they're mostly old and tired, and have been hashed and over-played by the media a decade and a half ago. And as for the political mistakes, Gingrich has apologized for them, and many of them are at least somewhat excusable as the typical congressman issues of having to at least occasionally try to reach across the aisle.

I'm not saying that I necessarily think that Gingrich will survive the anybody-but-Mitt spotlight any longer, but what he does have going for him is that his policies are deeper, more thought out, more nuanced - and even more explainable than anyone else's, and he's stayed rock steady in focusing on the problems Obama, the media, and the rest of left (and even occasionally the right, but not often) have inflicted on this country. It especially shows in the debates, but it comes through every time he's given a chance to speak, and not just at the debates.

Plus, we would all pay money to see him debate Obama.

gary said...

The difference between Gingrich and Cain/Perry/Bachmann is simple; Gingrich's faults are his strength in a way.

With Everybody above (Donald Trump excluded, although he was never a real candidate anyway), they were a newcomer to national politics, a blank slate who the Republican electorate could project the characteristics of an ideal candidate. Bachmann was a smarter Sarah Palin. Perry, a no-nonsense principled conservative. Cain was an accomplished manager (successful CEO, Chairman of the Kansas City Fed), which no doubt meant that he was intelligent, and nobody had any reason to doubt his integrity.

As each of these assumptions proved themselves untrue, the support for the particular candidate faded.

Gingrich is completely different; he's been a nationally known figure in politics for almost 20 years. His faults, legion though they may be, aren't going to surprise anybody (or at least, aren't going to surprise too many primary voters). That is why I think he has much more staying power than any of the other flavor of the month Republicans.

(of course, lets assume I'm wrong. That means the next front-runner is... Ron Paul).

gary said...

I guess I owe Taoist a coke.

Chops said...

I think you two overstate the case for "known-quantitiness". Gingrich's marital flaws are in the past (as far as we know), but the rest of his problems are character issues very much on display throughout the campaign. While Gingrich is much more fun to watch than Romney, he's a huge target for Obama. And not all of his policies are well thought-out: his citizen panels for deciding the fate of illegal immigrants is like something Herman Cain would suggest.

Conservatives are hankering for the opposite of Obama: why would we nominate a legislator and author with a messianic complex? More to the point, don't underestimate the demand for a "steady hand at the wheel" among independents and moderates. John McCain lost a lot of votes (including mine) with his unreliability and mismanaged campaign. I don't think I want someone who sees himself in world-historical terms running the country.

Maybe I'm wrong: maybe a megalomaniac who drives himself with visions of Churchill is exactly what we need. Maybe President Gingrich's ambition will elevate us all. But that's not normally the way of the world. (See: Obama, Barack).

Chops said...

In typical style, George F Will puts a pox on both their houses, and talks up Jon Huntsman as the true conservative:

Carol L. Douglas said...

As I've said before, only Mitt Romney could make me bolt for a third-party candidate. Newt's flawed, but he's not Mitt.

taoist said...

Of Gingrich's solution to immigration, the citizen panels is one of the smallest and last parts of his position, but of course the part that his opponents focused on.