Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gingrich

Romney, Santorum Back Out of Debate?

Mitt Romney was the first to announce earlier this afternoon he’ll skip the March 1 CNN Georgia debate:

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul emails over to confirm, “Gov. Romney will be spending a lot of time campaigning in Georgia and Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday. With eight other states voting on March 6, we will be campaigning in other parts of the country and unable to schedule the CNN Georgia debate. We have participated in 20 debates, including 8 from CNN.”

Read More

Mitt Romney was the first to announce earlier this afternoon he’ll skip the March 1 CNN Georgia debate:

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul emails over to confirm, “Gov. Romney will be spending a lot of time campaigning in Georgia and Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday. With eight other states voting on March 6, we will be campaigning in other parts of the country and unable to schedule the CNN Georgia debate. We have participated in 20 debates, including 8 from CNN.”

CBS NJ’s Sarah Boxer, who broke the story on Mitt backing out, now reports that Rick Santorum “has no plans of doing [the debate] right now,” according to his spokesperson.

It doesn’t make sense for Santorum to do the debate if Romney isn’t participating, as it would likely turn into a slap-fest between him and Newt Gingrich, which Santorum doesn’t need right now. Also, if CNN had decided to cancel the event after Romney dropped out, it would have undercut Santorum’s attempts to position himself as the Republican frontrunner.

The biggest loser from all this? Clearly Gingrich. The debates are where he shines, and the less debates between now and Super Tuesday, the less of a chance he has of regaining the ground he lost after South Carolina.

Romney previously criticized the number of debates the candidates have had to participate in, and hinted he might start sitting some out. This move shows the candidates now have more sway than the networks when it comes to deciding when and where they debate each other.

Read Less

Adelson’s New Goal: Take Down Santorum

Considering the attacks Sheldon Adelson funded against Mitt Romney – a candidate he reportedly likes – just imagine how he treats candidates he disagrees with:

In a bit of political chess, Mr. Adelson is ready to not only directly support the former House speaker in the Republican primary, but to use his cash to push Rick Santorum from his position atop the latest national polls, according to people who have discussed the matter with Mr. Adelson.

If Mr. Gingrich could afford to continue campaigning, one of those people said, he might be able to draw off conservative and evangelical voters from Mr. Santorum, improving the chances of Mitt Romney, who Mr. Adelson believes has a better chance to win November’s general election. …

Mr. Adelson doesn’t oppose Mr. Santorum, but he doesn’t share the former Pennsylvania senator’s socially conservative positions, including his strong anti-abortion views, associates said. Mr. Santorum was one of only two Republicans who didn’t meet with Mr. Adelson in October around the time of a candidates’ debate in Las Vegas, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Read More

Considering the attacks Sheldon Adelson funded against Mitt Romney – a candidate he reportedly likes – just imagine how he treats candidates he disagrees with:

In a bit of political chess, Mr. Adelson is ready to not only directly support the former House speaker in the Republican primary, but to use his cash to push Rick Santorum from his position atop the latest national polls, according to people who have discussed the matter with Mr. Adelson.

If Mr. Gingrich could afford to continue campaigning, one of those people said, he might be able to draw off conservative and evangelical voters from Mr. Santorum, improving the chances of Mitt Romney, who Mr. Adelson believes has a better chance to win November’s general election. …

Mr. Adelson doesn’t oppose Mr. Santorum, but he doesn’t share the former Pennsylvania senator’s socially conservative positions, including his strong anti-abortion views, associates said. Mr. Santorum was one of only two Republicans who didn’t meet with Mr. Adelson in October around the time of a candidates’ debate in Las Vegas, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Adelson reportedly hasn’t shifted allegiances to Romney, but it’s basically implied if he pursues this strategy. The last thing Romney needs at this point is for Gingrich to drop out of the race. And from Romney’s perspective, Adelson’s cash could be put to much better use by funding Gingrich ads against Santorum. After all, Romney doesn’t really need the money at this point, and Newt has more credibility on the right to pull off harsh attacks on Santorum’s social positions.

This also shows that any hopes Republicans had of capturing a greater percentage of the Jewish vote may go out the window if Santorum’s the candidate. Moderate Jews who might consider voting Republican based on Israel will probably find it hard to support a candidate with far-right views on abortion, gay marriage and contraception.

Read Less

Gingrich: I’m Not Going Anywhere

Via the Washington Examiner, Newt Gingrich declines to take the National Review’s friendly advice to drop out of the race and endorse Rick Santorum:

“The National Review wanted me to drop out in June,” Gingrich said to reporters last night, calling such speculation, “silly.”

“You guys go around and pick up the same people that said that I was dead in June, that said that I was dead after Iowa, you know, twice I lead in the Gallup poll, ok?” Gingrich said.

Gingrich said that he had no plans to drop out before Super Tuesday and boasted that his campaign was still competitive.

Read More

Via the Washington Examiner, Newt Gingrich declines to take the National Review’s friendly advice to drop out of the race and endorse Rick Santorum:

“The National Review wanted me to drop out in June,” Gingrich said to reporters last night, calling such speculation, “silly.”

“You guys go around and pick up the same people that said that I was dead in June, that said that I was dead after Iowa, you know, twice I lead in the Gallup poll, ok?” Gingrich said.

Gingrich said that he had no plans to drop out before Super Tuesday and boasted that his campaign was still competitive.

First of all, I don’t remember the National Review calling on Gingrich to drop out last June, and a quick search of the website didn’t bring one up. So if you know which NR piece Gingrich is referring to, please send it my way.

But Gingrich is absolutely correct on one point here. He was pronounced dead by the media twice, only to rise again. And as farfetched as it might seem at the moment, it could absolutely happen again.

The thing is, even if Newt manages to pull off another comeback, it’s not going to last. At some point he’ll crash back down. He has too much baggage, too many enemies, and not enough discipline. Just to take one example, here’s what Gingrich said about Rick Santorum and Rick Perry when he was leading the field in South Carolina last month:

“If we win on Saturday, I think I will be the nominee,” Gingrich said during a town hall meeting with voters here. “I’m the only conservative who realistically has a chance to be the nominee.”

“So any vote for [Rick] Santorum or [Rick] Perry, in effect, is a vote to allow Romney to become the nominee, because we’ve got to bring conservatives together in order to stop him,” Gingrich said.

With Santorum now leading Gingrich in primary victories, it’s now clear Santorum has a much more realistic chance to win the nomination than Gingrich does. If nominating a conservative is Newt’s main goal, as he claimed last month, then – by his own standards – shouldn’t he drop out and pave the way for Santorum? You would think. But then, Gingrich’s standards always seem to be things that only apply to other people – never to him.

Read Less

New Polls Give More Bad News for Romney

There were some in the Mitt Romney camp who spent the last two days downplaying a Public Policy Polling survey that showed their candidate trailing Rick Santorum by a wide margin among Republican voters nationwide. Because PPP is a Democratic-leaning firm, they argued the stunning 38-23 percentage point lead given Santorum in that poll was unreliable. But with the release of three other national polls in the last day, there can be no doubt Santorum has, at the very least, caught up to Romney.

A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows Santorum with a 30-27 point lead over Romney with Ron Paul in third with 12 percent and Newt Gingrich bringing up the rear with only 10 percent. A just-published Pew Research Center for the People and Press poll shows a nearly identical spread for the two leaders with Santorum leading Romney 30-28, though it differs over the second tier candidates as its results give Gingrich 17 percent and Paul 12 percent. The latest Gallup tracking poll provides somewhat better news for Romney. It shows him still ahead by a slender 32-30 margin with Gingrich at 16 percent and Paul at 8 percent. These three polls provide solid proof that Santorum and Romney are now in a statistical dead heat. But no matter how you spin these numbers, it’s all bad news for Romney. The polls show him losing support among the independents who made him more electable in a November match-up against Barack Obama and show him trailing Santorum among the Tea Partiers, social conservatives and the political conservatives who make up the base of the Republican Party.

Read More

There were some in the Mitt Romney camp who spent the last two days downplaying a Public Policy Polling survey that showed their candidate trailing Rick Santorum by a wide margin among Republican voters nationwide. Because PPP is a Democratic-leaning firm, they argued the stunning 38-23 percentage point lead given Santorum in that poll was unreliable. But with the release of three other national polls in the last day, there can be no doubt Santorum has, at the very least, caught up to Romney.

A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows Santorum with a 30-27 point lead over Romney with Ron Paul in third with 12 percent and Newt Gingrich bringing up the rear with only 10 percent. A just-published Pew Research Center for the People and Press poll shows a nearly identical spread for the two leaders with Santorum leading Romney 30-28, though it differs over the second tier candidates as its results give Gingrich 17 percent and Paul 12 percent. The latest Gallup tracking poll provides somewhat better news for Romney. It shows him still ahead by a slender 32-30 margin with Gingrich at 16 percent and Paul at 8 percent. These three polls provide solid proof that Santorum and Romney are now in a statistical dead heat. But no matter how you spin these numbers, it’s all bad news for Romney. The polls show him losing support among the independents who made him more electable in a November match-up against Barack Obama and show him trailing Santorum among the Tea Partiers, social conservatives and the political conservatives who make up the base of the Republican Party.

Going forward, Romney has advantages over Santorum in terms of financial resources and campaign organization. But if Santorum emerges in the next round of primaries as the leading conservative candidate who has the passion of the GOP grass roots, it could spell disaster for Romney. That is especially true if Gingrich continues to fade. Should the former speaker fail to raise enough money to continue a viable candidacy and thus drop into single digits, that could set up a one-on-one match-up between Santorum and Romney. This would be an interesting test of whether Republicans prefer a “true conservative” like Santorum over a relative moderate like Romney, who seems more electable.

Unfortunately for Romney, Santorum’s surge has come just at the moment when he has lost ground in matchups against Obama. Romney’s strongest argument for the nomination has always been that he has a much better chance of winning over wavering Democrats and independents who voted for Obama in 2008 than any Republican who is more identified with the Christian right. But in the wake of the tough attacks on Romney’s business record and taxes by Gingrich in the last month, as well as his gaffe about not caring about the poor, Romney is slipping in the match-ups against Obama and now appears to be doing not much better than Santorum.

This creates a difficult dilemma for the former Massachusetts governor. On the one hand, he must do his best to win over conservatives if he is going to prevail in the upcoming primaries. On the other, he must also not lose any more ground among independents if he is to maintain his edge in electability. But as it’s not possible to achieve both ends simultaneously, he must choose to concentrate on convincing conservatives he is one of them. It is on that uphill battle his hopes for the presidency rest.

Read Less

Should Gingrich Drop Out?

Newt Gingrich’s arguments for telling Rick Santorum to drop out of the presidential race last month are starting to boomerang on him. The National Review wonders whether it would be better for the Republican Party if Gingrich hung it up and endorsed Santorum:

It is not clear whether Gingrich remains in the race because he still believes he could become president next year or because he wants to avenge his wounded pride: an ambiguity that suggests the problem with him as a leader. When he led Santorum in the polls, he urged the Pennsylvanian to leave the race. On his own arguments the proper course for him now is to endorse Santorum and exit.

Read More

Newt Gingrich’s arguments for telling Rick Santorum to drop out of the presidential race last month are starting to boomerang on him. The National Review wonders whether it would be better for the Republican Party if Gingrich hung it up and endorsed Santorum:

It is not clear whether Gingrich remains in the race because he still believes he could become president next year or because he wants to avenge his wounded pride: an ambiguity that suggests the problem with him as a leader. When he led Santorum in the polls, he urged the Pennsylvanian to leave the race. On his own arguments the proper course for him now is to endorse Santorum and exit.

There’s actually a much stronger argument for Gingrich to drop out now than there was for Santorum to drop out before Florida. Unlike the former House speaker, Santorum is far less likely to self-destruct.

If Gingrich dropped out, it would also significantly boost Santorum’s chances of winning the nomination. A Public Policy Polling survey from last week found that national Republican support for the former Pennsylvania senator would jump to 50 percent, far outpacing Romney at 28 percent.

Even from Gingrich’s perspective, dropping out makes the most sense. If his desire to stay in the race is driven mainly by a personal vendetta against Romney, then he could do more damage outside the race than inside. And if he’s running for egotistical reasons, then stepping down, endorsing Santorum, and becoming a kingmaker could satisfy that purpose, too.

Of course, there’s always the chance Gingrich still actually thinks he has a shot at the nomination and the presidency. If that’s the case, he may stick it out until the bitter end.

But that scenario is looking increasingly unlikely. With his campaign cash dwindling and his top donor closing his wallet, Gingrich is quickly running out of options. It’s certainly possible for him to stay in the race without any money – after all, he managed to do it for the better part of his campaign. But the howls from conservatives for him to drop out will only start getting louder as time goes on. He can either slog through the primaries, broke and antagonizing pro-Santorum conservatives, or he can magnanimously step aside, endorse Santorum, and play the role of the big hero. Say what you will about Gingrich, but he’s no dummy, and he knows a good opportunity when he sees one.

Read Less

Can the Santorum Surge Last?

Mitt Romney’s narrow wins in the non-binding Maine caucus and the CPAC straw poll changed the topic of conversation among Republicans — at least for a day — about Rick Santorum’s surge into contention in the GOP presidential race. But a Public Policy Polling survey released the same day ought to provide as much encouragement to Santorum’s backers as Romney’s fans took from Maine and CPAC. Feeding off his wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri earlier in the week, the PPP poll showed Santorum taking an astounding 38-23 percentage point lead over Romney, with Gingrich at 17 percent and Ron Paul trailing with 13 percent.

National tracking polls have been volatile throughout the race, giving each of the various flavors of the month like Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich their moments in the lead. So Santorum’s spike in popularity shouldn’t be taken as proof  the Republican race has been fundamentally altered by recent events. Nevertheless, the poll does illustrate the willingness of Republicans to embrace an alterative to Romney even at this stage of the race. It also demonstrates that Santorum’s popularity and positive image — at least among GOP voters — could prove troublesome to the frontrunner.

Read More

Mitt Romney’s narrow wins in the non-binding Maine caucus and the CPAC straw poll changed the topic of conversation among Republicans — at least for a day — about Rick Santorum’s surge into contention in the GOP presidential race. But a Public Policy Polling survey released the same day ought to provide as much encouragement to Santorum’s backers as Romney’s fans took from Maine and CPAC. Feeding off his wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri earlier in the week, the PPP poll showed Santorum taking an astounding 38-23 percentage point lead over Romney, with Gingrich at 17 percent and Ron Paul trailing with 13 percent.

National tracking polls have been volatile throughout the race, giving each of the various flavors of the month like Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich their moments in the lead. So Santorum’s spike in popularity shouldn’t be taken as proof  the Republican race has been fundamentally altered by recent events. Nevertheless, the poll does illustrate the willingness of Republicans to embrace an alterative to Romney even at this stage of the race. It also demonstrates that Santorum’s popularity and positive image — at least among GOP voters — could prove troublesome to the frontrunner.

The breakdown of the poll shows Santorum has supplanted Gingrich as the leading “non-Romney” conservative competing for the Republican nomination. He has huge leads among Tea Partiers and evangelicals, both of which were in Gingrich’s column earlier in the race.

But though one shouldn’t take a national poll such as this all that seriously — especially one conducted in the days immediately after Santorum’s February 7 hat trick — the net favorability ratings of the candidates the poll reveals do provide a fascinating insight into the state of the race right now.

Romney’s net favorability is down considerably from PPP’s last poll in December. At that time, 55 percent of those surveyed viewed him positively, while only 31 percent saw him negatively. Now those numbers are 44-43. Gingrich’s numbers are even worse, with more negatives than positives by a 44-42 percent margin, down from a 60-28 net positive in December.

By contrast, Santorum’s favorability is soaring, with 64 percent seeing him positively while only 22 percent of Republicans view him negatively. That’s up considerably from his 49-30 net positive rating in December when he was languishing among the second tier of GOP candidates.

The favorability ratings are the product of two points I’ve written about before.

The first factor is Santorum’s refusal to join in the mudslinging as Romney and Gingrich tore each other apart. Santorum’s tactic of opposing the nasty attacks the other two have made at each other has made him appear to be the nicest guy left standing in the race.

The other is the attention given to the illness of Santorum’s disabled daughter Bella. The story generated sympathy for Santorum, but it goes deeper than that. It enabled voters to see Santorum as something more than an angry, public scold hounding the nation with his views on social issues. It highlighted his life as a devoted family man and a person of faith and also softened his image.

Santorum’s stances on social issues and his image as a scourge of the gay community don’t really factor into these numbers, as this is a Republican sample. The problem for Santorum is if he became the nominee, it’s not clear whether he could withstand the assault on him from liberals and the gay community. Though Romney’s standing in head-to-head polls with President Obama has declined in recent days, he must still be considered more electable than Santorum.

But that’s a battle for another day. Right now, it’s the GOP nomination that’s at stake, and Santorum’s positives are such that it is impossible to dismiss the possibility his surge can be sustained. Victories for Romney in Arizona and Michigan might restore some order to the GOP race later in the month. But if he falters, the affection that Santorum has engendered among Republicans could derail the frontrunner.

Read Less

Problems Loom as Romney Stops the Bleeding

After a week in which he lost contests in three states and had taken a severe beating about his ability to close the deal with Republicans, Mitt Romney stopped the bleeding on Saturday with victories in the non-binding Maine caucus and the CPAC straw poll. Romney has tremendous advantages over his rivals and must still be considered the overwhelming favorite for the GOP presidential nomination. If his shocking losses to Rick Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri demolished the idea that he would easily cruise through the next weeks and months, then Maine and CPAC were reminders the former Massachusetts governor still has the money and the organization to bulldoze his way through some relatively insignificant contests.

But no one should be deceived by Romney’s ability to squeak out wins in a non-binding caucus (where he was nearly beaten by libertarian outlier Ron Paul) that attracted few Republican voters and a straw poll that was more a measure of the competence of the candidate’s organization. The frontrunner is still confronted with some serious problems that complicate his effort to nail down the nomination and to win the general election. The Republican base is still not sold on him, and his struggles to win his party and occasional gaffes are also eroding the notion that he is the most electable Republican.

Read More

After a week in which he lost contests in three states and had taken a severe beating about his ability to close the deal with Republicans, Mitt Romney stopped the bleeding on Saturday with victories in the non-binding Maine caucus and the CPAC straw poll. Romney has tremendous advantages over his rivals and must still be considered the overwhelming favorite for the GOP presidential nomination. If his shocking losses to Rick Santorum in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri demolished the idea that he would easily cruise through the next weeks and months, then Maine and CPAC were reminders the former Massachusetts governor still has the money and the organization to bulldoze his way through some relatively insignificant contests.

But no one should be deceived by Romney’s ability to squeak out wins in a non-binding caucus (where he was nearly beaten by libertarian outlier Ron Paul) that attracted few Republican voters and a straw poll that was more a measure of the competence of the candidate’s organization. The frontrunner is still confronted with some serious problems that complicate his effort to nail down the nomination and to win the general election. The Republican base is still not sold on him, and his struggles to win his party and occasional gaffes are also eroding the notion that he is the most electable Republican.

The first of these problems is Santorum’s surge is turning out to be more than a one-day story. Santorum will provide a real challenge to Romney in Michigan and Arizona later this month, and his rise in the polls will enable him to raise enough money to compete there. Santorum is not invulnerable to criticism, but he will not be as easy for Romney to demolish with negative ads as Newt Gingrich has been.

Second, Gingrich’s fade from contention is another source of worry. Romney’s rise to the top of the GOP field was only made possible by the division among conservatives. Though Gingrich’s ego will probably prevent him from dropping out, if the race becomes a two-man battle between Romney and Santorum, that could prove troublesome.

Third is the fact that a long drawn out battle for the nomination will not strengthen Romney or his party. There’s been a lot of happy talk from some Republicans about the benefits of such a knock-down, drag-out fight, but most of them are just saying that because they are hoping such a scenario is the only way to envision Romney being defeated. But the comparisons between the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton dustup in 2008 are way off the mark. The negative attacks launched on those two were beanbag when compared to the things the Republicans are saying about each other. Obama emerged strengthened from the Democratic primaries chiefly because he was protected by a quiescent national press corps that refused to follow-up on questions about his background and influences. By contrast, the press and the Democrats will use the attacks on Romney from both the left and right to prepare for an even nastier assault on him in the fall.

The decline in Romney’s head-to-head poll match-ups with Obama provides evidence that gaffes like his remark about the poor as well as the attacks on his income and business career by Gingrich have taken a toll on his appeal. Given the real animus against Romney from Gingrich and many on the right, the GOP trashing of the man who is still the likely nominee will impact his ability to rally the base and win over independents.

Fourth is that low turnout in some of this year’s caucuses and primaries are a worrisome sign for Republicans. Despite the ardent desire of most Republicans to defeat Barack Obama, there’s no denying dissatisfaction with the field of candidates is causing fewer of them to show up and vote. Romney’s people say that won’t be a problem in November as Obama will mobilize Republicans for him. There’s some truth to that, but that doesn’t mean the GOP shouldn’t be worried about Romney’s appeal.

So while Romney can take some satisfaction in the fact that his problems didn’t get worse on Saturday and can even claim his two victories set him back on the path to the nomination, there are still plenty of reasons for his supporters to be concerned. He needs to spend the next two weeks before for the next round of primaries focusing on a series of challenges that can’t be ignored.

Read Less

Adelson Pulls the Plug on Gingrich

A bad week for Newt Gingrich has just gotten worse. Bloomberg News is reporting that Newt Gingrich has seen his last check from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The casino mogul and his wife donated a reported $11 million to pro-Gingrich super PACs in January when his fortunes had faded and he desperately needed help. Their infusion of cash into his campaign funded an avalanche of ads attacking Mitt Romney and helped Gingrich to a big win in the South Carolina primary. However, Gingrich’s crushing defeat in Florida and a string of caucuses since then has made another comeback for the former Speaker of the House increasingly unlikely. But if Gingrich thinks the Adelsons will pony up for another round of Romney-bashing, he is mistaken.

As the New York Times reported last weekend, Adelson may like Gingrich but his political objective this year is defeating Barack Obama. The Romney campaign conducted a careful attempt at outreach with the Adelsons and it has apparently borne fruit. In the piece, Adelson made it clear that he would actively support Romney once Gingrich quit. Yet while Gingrich, whose run seems fueled as much by his hatred for Romney as it is by his considerable personal ambition, is unlikely to drop out anytime soon, Adelson has gone a bit farther now by signaling that he will not be giving his friend any more money in order to pursue this vendetta.

Read More

A bad week for Newt Gingrich has just gotten worse. Bloomberg News is reporting that Newt Gingrich has seen his last check from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The casino mogul and his wife donated a reported $11 million to pro-Gingrich super PACs in January when his fortunes had faded and he desperately needed help. Their infusion of cash into his campaign funded an avalanche of ads attacking Mitt Romney and helped Gingrich to a big win in the South Carolina primary. However, Gingrich’s crushing defeat in Florida and a string of caucuses since then has made another comeback for the former Speaker of the House increasingly unlikely. But if Gingrich thinks the Adelsons will pony up for another round of Romney-bashing, he is mistaken.

As the New York Times reported last weekend, Adelson may like Gingrich but his political objective this year is defeating Barack Obama. The Romney campaign conducted a careful attempt at outreach with the Adelsons and it has apparently borne fruit. In the piece, Adelson made it clear that he would actively support Romney once Gingrich quit. Yet while Gingrich, whose run seems fueled as much by his hatred for Romney as it is by his considerable personal ambition, is unlikely to drop out anytime soon, Adelson has gone a bit farther now by signaling that he will not be giving his friend any more money in order to pursue this vendetta.

The GOP race has changed so many times in the last few months that it is hard to argue that it will not flip again, but right now it appears that Rick Santorum has passed Gingrich in the battle to be the leading “not Romney” in the race. Gingrich desperately needs a boost from somewhere but Adelson, who is an ardent supporter of Israel and fears the consequences of a second term for Obama, will not fund a campaign that at this point may be more about an attempt to cripple the man who is still the most likely to be the Republican nominee than anything else.

Since Gingrich spent most of 2011 running without much money in the bank, it can be argued that this setback won’t be enough to force him out of the race. But Gingrich is a man who struggled a long time to achieve the wealth that his consulting/lobbying business gave him in the last decade. With his campaign debts mounting every day, he has to be worried about being forced to spend years trying to repay this money. This means that unless Gingrich finds a new sugar daddy, his days as a viable or active candidate may be numbered.

Read Less

One of the Sillier Statements of Any Modern Political Figure

In his interview with Scott Hennen, Newt Gingrich was asked what he thought about the “good Newt” versus “bad Newt” narrative. Gingrich responded this way: “I think it’s a foolish narrative. I mean, when you are drowning in being outspent 5 to 1 with negative ads, there’s a tendency to want to respond to them. Now I don’t know if that is bad Newt. Does that mean that there is a bad Mitt and a good Mitt? I mean, give me a break.”

But Gingrich went beyond that to say, “But I can tell you is that, if you look at my whole career, and Scott you’ve known me for many years, you look at the 24 books we’ve written, you look at the 7 movies we’ve made, you know, I like ideas, I like being a candidate of ideas and that’s far and away what I prefer to do and I think if people go to Newt.org and look at all the positive things we have there — just our 54-page paper on how to rebalance the judiciary and force the judges back within the Constitution. Just that one paper would frankly justify the campaign because it is the boldest statement of the founding fathers, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers I think that any modern political figure has written in my lifetime.”

Not quite.

Read More

In his interview with Scott Hennen, Newt Gingrich was asked what he thought about the “good Newt” versus “bad Newt” narrative. Gingrich responded this way: “I think it’s a foolish narrative. I mean, when you are drowning in being outspent 5 to 1 with negative ads, there’s a tendency to want to respond to them. Now I don’t know if that is bad Newt. Does that mean that there is a bad Mitt and a good Mitt? I mean, give me a break.”

But Gingrich went beyond that to say, “But I can tell you is that, if you look at my whole career, and Scott you’ve known me for many years, you look at the 24 books we’ve written, you look at the 7 movies we’ve made, you know, I like ideas, I like being a candidate of ideas and that’s far and away what I prefer to do and I think if people go to Newt.org and look at all the positive things we have there — just our 54-page paper on how to rebalance the judiciary and force the judges back within the Constitution. Just that one paper would frankly justify the campaign because it is the boldest statement of the founding fathers, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers I think that any modern political figure has written in my lifetime.”

Not quite.

The paper itself, “Bringing the Courts Back Under the Constitution,” makes some useful and interesting points, as my Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Ed Whelan points out. But there are also some problematic recommendations. Whelan and Matthew J. Franck lay out (here, here, here and here what they refer to as Gingrich’s “awful proposal to abolish judgeships.” George Will has written that Gingrich’s proposals make him the “first presidential candidate to propose a thorough assault on the rule of law.” Gingrich’s effort to intimidate the courts qualify as, in Will’s words, a “descent into sinister radicalism.” And former Attorney General Michael Mukasey has said that if Gingrich’s plans were put into effect, America would become a “banana republic, in which administrations would become regimes, and each regime would feel it perfectly appropriate to disregard decisions by courts staffed by previous regimes.”

Whelan, Franck, Will, and Mukasey are right, and Gingrich is wrong.

Having read “that one paper” the former speaker refers to, I can say with some degree of confidence that it alone does not “frankly justify the campaign.” And for Gingrich to claim it constitutes “the boldest statement of the founding fathers, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers I think that any modern political figure has written in my lifetime” constitutes one of the sillier statements of any modern political figure in my lifetime.

 

Read Less

Odds Still in Romney’s Favor

It seems like every time I declare Mitt Romney to be in the catbird seat, he does everything in his power to disprove me. But last night, the former Massachusetts governor outdid himself, having been swept by Rick Santorum in contests in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. And it isn’t simply the fact that Romney lost; it’s the magnitude of his losses. Governor Romney finished third in Minnesota with 17 percent of the vote total, behind both Ron Paul (27 percent) and Santorum (45 percent). In Missouri, Romney lost to Santorum by a staggering 30 points (55 percent v. 25 percent). And in Colorado, a state Romney won in 2008 with more than 60 percent of the vote, Santorum bested him by five points (40 percent v. 35 percent).

Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner points out that in both Missouri and Minnesota, a state Romney won in 2008, he did not win a single county. (There are 114 counties in Missouri.)

Read More

It seems like every time I declare Mitt Romney to be in the catbird seat, he does everything in his power to disprove me. But last night, the former Massachusetts governor outdid himself, having been swept by Rick Santorum in contests in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. And it isn’t simply the fact that Romney lost; it’s the magnitude of his losses. Governor Romney finished third in Minnesota with 17 percent of the vote total, behind both Ron Paul (27 percent) and Santorum (45 percent). In Missouri, Romney lost to Santorum by a staggering 30 points (55 percent v. 25 percent). And in Colorado, a state Romney won in 2008 with more than 60 percent of the vote, Santorum bested him by five points (40 percent v. 35 percent).

Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner points out that in both Missouri and Minnesota, a state Romney won in 2008, he did not win a single county. (There are 114 counties in Missouri.)

The odds of winning the nomination are very much in Romney’s favor, in part because Newt Gingrich is doing his nemesis the favor of hanging around, with the result (potentially) of denying Santorum the mano-a-mano contest with Romney he needs. On the other hand, Santorum might well supplant Gingrich as the conservative alternative whether Gingrich stays or leaves the race. Many scales have fallen from many eyes in recent days, and it’s becoming obvious to more and more GOP voters that Rick Santorum is a far stronger (and more reliably conservative) candidate than Newt Gingrich. If Santorum were to knock off Romney in Michigan, then the trajectory of this race could change in a hurry.

Now a word about both Romney and Santorum.

It’s not a state secret that Romney has not yet been able to make the sale with the conservative base of his party. The resistance to him isn’t an intense dislike, at least from most on the right. It’s more of a wariness, a lack of comfort, a sense the former Massachusetts governor isn’t in his heart a true or reliable conservative. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s a real challenge for Mitt Romney to overcome — and as we saw last night, he’s far from overcoming it.

But there appears to be more to it than that. Governor Romney reassures many GOP voters, but he inspires few of them. And as he surely must know, politics is, at least in large part, about winning people’s allegiance and loyalty. They want to believe they are part of more than a campaign; they want to believe they are part of a great cause. And most people right now can’t tell you what great cause the Romney campaign represents.

It’s too easy for commentators to pile on candidates after a bad showing, as Romney experienced last night, and forget their strengths, of which Romney has many. He’s a fine, and at times a first-rate, debater. He’s shown fluency when it comes to the issues. He’s a man of personal decency and moderate temperament. He’s shown the capacity to lift his game when necessary. And he’s disciplined and focused. But right now there’s a weakness at the core of the campaign, and the Romney team would be wise to understand what that is.

It would of course be a huge error to try to turn Romney into someone he’s not. What he needs to do is to build a compelling narrative around his genuine strengths. I’ve written before the great challenge facing America today is reforming public institutions that were designed for the needs of the mid-20th century. Our health care and entitlement system, tax code, schools, infrastructure, immigration policies, and regulatory regime are outdated, worn down, and terribly out of touch with the needs of our time. This has impeded economic growth, impaired the creation of human capital, and put us on the path toward an unprecedented fiscal crisis. Each of these public institutions needs to be improved and modernized, requiring structural reforms on a large scale. It seems to me that Romney, by virtue of his experience and skill sets, can make the case he’s the person best equipped to lead this effort.

Now a word about my former Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Rick Santorum. Rick has shown impressive resilience, having won over voters almost literally one at a time. He’s very intelligent and well-informed; he’s mostly stayed clear of the Romney v. Gingrich fight, focusing on the issues rather than personal foibles of the other candidates; and he’s shown the ability to be an outstanding prosecutor for his case (as when he’s gone after RomneyCare). Santorum can also claim to be a “conviction politician,” including when those convictions were politically costly.

What Santorum has also done, and probably hasn’t received enough credit for doing, is to recalibrate his tone. At points early on during this campaign, he came across as too intense, too cock-sure, too impatient and righteous in his zeal. Those things, it’s important to say, were the result of a man of deep convictions and an admirable fearlessness. But it at times made him unsympathetic and not easy to embrace. But that began to change right around December, and he’s now projected a warmth and human quality that’s quite appealing. Even if Santorum doesn’t win the GOP nomination, he’s reestablished himself as an important and influential figure within conservatism.

For now, though, this primary race – at times fascinating, volatile, engaging and dispiriting –continues. And whoever emerges victorious will have a slightly better than even shot at becoming America’s 45th president.

 

Read Less

Has Romney Snatched Defeat From the Jaws of Victory?

Rick Santorum’s stunning sweep of the Tuesday primary/caucus schedule has altered a race many of us thought had finally and irrevocably swung the way of Mitt Romney after his big wins in Florida and Nevada. Romney’s camp will try to spin his defeats in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado as just a momentary bump on the road to Tampa, and there are good reasons to believe he will still eventually win. But Santorum’s hat trick comes at a moment when even conservatives were starting to buy into the idea that the former Massachusetts governor was the inevitable nominee. Moreover, the reason why Romney lost undermines the basic rationale of his candidacy.

While Romney’s comment on CNN last week about not wanting to help the poor was taken out of context, it still betrayed the candidate’s inability to connect with ordinary voters. He not only doesn’t talk like a conservative. He comes across as out of touch with their concerns and those of everyday citizens. Romney’s technocratic approach to problem solving may seem to be ideal to help fix an economic downturn, but a man who makes such gaffes cannot be said to be a lock to beat a Democratic incumbent who will ruthlessly demagogue the Republicans via class warfare tactics. Because Romney’s number one asset is his electability, the remark about the poor, which came at a moment when the national economic statistics seemed to brighten, made him look like the wrong man at the wrong moment. Yesterday’s results must leave Republicans wondering whether Santorum has the ability to take advantage of his wins and if Romney’s strengths are sufficient to overcome this setback.

Read More

Rick Santorum’s stunning sweep of the Tuesday primary/caucus schedule has altered a race many of us thought had finally and irrevocably swung the way of Mitt Romney after his big wins in Florida and Nevada. Romney’s camp will try to spin his defeats in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado as just a momentary bump on the road to Tampa, and there are good reasons to believe he will still eventually win. But Santorum’s hat trick comes at a moment when even conservatives were starting to buy into the idea that the former Massachusetts governor was the inevitable nominee. Moreover, the reason why Romney lost undermines the basic rationale of his candidacy.

While Romney’s comment on CNN last week about not wanting to help the poor was taken out of context, it still betrayed the candidate’s inability to connect with ordinary voters. He not only doesn’t talk like a conservative. He comes across as out of touch with their concerns and those of everyday citizens. Romney’s technocratic approach to problem solving may seem to be ideal to help fix an economic downturn, but a man who makes such gaffes cannot be said to be a lock to beat a Democratic incumbent who will ruthlessly demagogue the Republicans via class warfare tactics. Because Romney’s number one asset is his electability, the remark about the poor, which came at a moment when the national economic statistics seemed to brighten, made him look like the wrong man at the wrong moment. Yesterday’s results must leave Republicans wondering whether Santorum has the ability to take advantage of his wins and if Romney’s strengths are sufficient to overcome this setback.

Romney’s loyalists will argue that Santorum is unelectable in November and his lack of a national organization and money still makes him a long shot for the nomination. There is also the fact that even if Santorum has definitely eclipsed a fading Newt Gingrich as the leading “not Romney” in the race, the former speaker is so driven by ambition and personal hatred of the frontrunner he won’t consider dropping out. Gingrich wasn’t on the ballot in Missouri’s non-binding primary and barely competed in Minnesota and Colorado. But even if it now seems unlikely he can rebound in March with wins on Super Tuesday, his continued presence in the race will divide the conservative vote to Romney’s advantage. Indeed, Romney will still be favored in Arizona and Michigan later this month and might even squeeze out a victory in Maine this week.

But by losing the Feb. 7 trifecta, Romney snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Had Romney won yesterday, he could have knocked off Santorum and solidified the narrative of his inevitability. By losing in Colorado where he was heavily favored, Romney has set up Santorum to be a dangerous rival.

Unlike both Romney and Gingrich, Santorum has become a better candidate as the race has gone on. Though Romney reaped the benefits of Gingrich’s implosion in the debates before the Florida primary, it was actually Santorum who won those encounters on the issues. Santorum’s appeal to working class voters may appall some conservatives, but it puts him in a good position to exploit Romney’s weaknesses.

Even more important, he has carved out a unique niche in this campaign as the one candidate who won’t sling mud at his rivals. While Romney and Gingrich have appeared ruthless and cynical by their willingness to say anything about each other, Santorum has been humanized by the campaign as voters got to know his family and to sympathize with him as the father of a sick and disabled child.

It should be remembered the only reason why Romney was able to become the frontrunner was the failure of more viable conservatives to get into the race or to put themselves forward as plausible candidates. Santorum seemed the most unlikely of all the contenders to get this far. But he is a genuine conservative on social issues and has the best grasp of foreign policy of any of those still standing. Though he is vulnerable on his record of support for earmarks and spending while in the Senate, should Romney attempt to “carpet bomb” him with negative ads in the upcoming primaries it will do more damage to himself than Santorum.

Santorum is still a long way from being considered a likely nominee, but his victories have changed this race from a cakewalk for a Romney to a genuine fight in which the frontrunner is favored but not certain to win. If Romney is to ultimately prevail, he will have to improve his game in the coming weeks and months. If he doesn’t, he may wind up looking back to this past week as the moment he blew the nomination.

Read Less

Going Negative on Santorum Would Be a Mistake for Romney

The final results from Tuesday’s voting are not in yet, but it’s already clear it’s been a great night for Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator has won the “beauty contest” in Missouri as well as the Minnesota caucus. Even if that turns out to be balanced by a win for Mitt Romney in the Colorado caucus, the day will still be judged a big win for Santorum. This will give him a big leg up over Newt Gingrich in the competition to be the leading “non Romney” in the GOP race. But if this means the beginning of the end for Gingrich, it may also concentrate the frontrunner’s attention on his surging conservative rival. If so, that may lead to a new round of ads and statements from the Romney campaign blasting Santorum.

But the assumption that a Romney “carpet bombing” of Santorum would achieve the same result as the attacks on Gingrich that have helped derail the former speaker’s presidential hopes is mistaken. Going negative on Gingrich merely reinforced the public’s doubts of the speaker’s character and record. To try and do the same thing against a candidate who has come across as the nicest guy left in the race might boomerang on Romney.

Read More

The final results from Tuesday’s voting are not in yet, but it’s already clear it’s been a great night for Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator has won the “beauty contest” in Missouri as well as the Minnesota caucus. Even if that turns out to be balanced by a win for Mitt Romney in the Colorado caucus, the day will still be judged a big win for Santorum. This will give him a big leg up over Newt Gingrich in the competition to be the leading “non Romney” in the GOP race. But if this means the beginning of the end for Gingrich, it may also concentrate the frontrunner’s attention on his surging conservative rival. If so, that may lead to a new round of ads and statements from the Romney campaign blasting Santorum.

But the assumption that a Romney “carpet bombing” of Santorum would achieve the same result as the attacks on Gingrich that have helped derail the former speaker’s presidential hopes is mistaken. Going negative on Gingrich merely reinforced the public’s doubts of the speaker’s character and record. To try and do the same thing against a candidate who has come across as the nicest guy left in the race might boomerang on Romney.

It should be conceded that there are plenty of avenues for criticism of Santorum. His defense of earmarks and his record as a “big government conservative” has the potential to alienate him from Tea Partiers. There are also real questions about his electability because he is so closely identified with hard line stands on social issues.

However, by staying out of the Gingrich-Romney mudslinging contest, Santorum has managed to bolster his image. The sympathy that was generated by coverage of his little daughter Bella’s illness also allowed him to carve out a unique niche in the race that put him above the fray in terms of roughhouse presidential politics. While Gingrich deeply resented the attacks on him from the Romney campaign, most Republicans know the former speaker has never shied away from smearing his opponents on either side of the aisle. To a certain extent, that knowledge protected Romney from intense criticism from many Republicans for going negative.

But if he tries the same tactic to take down Santorum, the blowback might do more damage to Romney than his intended victim. The spectacle of the frontrunner trying to demolish the character of another conservative rival may not go down well with the GOP grass roots, especially becauseSantorum has avoided the class warfare and personal attacks Gingrich launched at Romney.

An assault on Santorum may actually play into his hands, because it will make Romney appear like a bully trying to pick on the one candidate who has tried to run a clean campaign. Moreover, for all of Santorum’s vulnerability on financial issues, the longer the race has gone, the more likeable the Pennsylvanian has seemed. That’s the opposite of what has happened to Gingrich.

Romney needs to remember he still has an enormous advantage over Santorum. Nothing that happened on Tuesday night necessarily changes the narrative in which Romney cruises to the nomination. For Romney to initiate an all-out attack on Santorum would only inflate the senator’s image and make him appear unpresidential. Going negative on Santorum will be a terrible mistake that could help turn a Romney romp into a much more competitive race.

Read Less

Is Gingrich Another Reagan?

Once again, Newt Gingrich vowed tonight on CNN to take the Republican presidential race to the convention in Tampa. To back up his vow, he compared this contest to the GOP race in 1976 when the Ronald Reagan insurgency against incumbent President Gerald Ford took the fight to that convention and came close to winning. But Gingrich’s comparison is ridiculous for a number of reasons.

First of all, that battle was a two-man race between Reagan and Ford. The current GOP race involves four candidates. But, of course, the conceit of Gingrich’s comparison is that of the candidates. He’s casting Mitt Romney in the role of Ford and himself as the new Gipper. Romney may deserve the Ford comparison, as he is a relative moderate and the choice of most of the party establishment to the extent that one actually exists. But the big difference is Gingrich is no Ronald Reagan.

Read More

Once again, Newt Gingrich vowed tonight on CNN to take the Republican presidential race to the convention in Tampa. To back up his vow, he compared this contest to the GOP race in 1976 when the Ronald Reagan insurgency against incumbent President Gerald Ford took the fight to that convention and came close to winning. But Gingrich’s comparison is ridiculous for a number of reasons.

First of all, that battle was a two-man race between Reagan and Ford. The current GOP race involves four candidates. But, of course, the conceit of Gingrich’s comparison is that of the candidates. He’s casting Mitt Romney in the role of Ford and himself as the new Gipper. Romney may deserve the Ford comparison, as he is a relative moderate and the choice of most of the party establishment to the extent that one actually exists. But the big difference is Gingrich is no Ronald Reagan.

Gingrich’s hubris is well-known, but the notion that he is in the same league as the great communicator is a joke. The point is it took a figure of enormous stature and charisma to nearly knock off an incumbent president in a series of primaries. That Republican revolt was fueled not by personal resentment of Ford, but of disgust with his détente policies and the other compromises made by the administration. Tea Partiers today may not trust Romney but they are angry with President Obama. In 1976 there truly was a fight for the soul of the Republican Party as conservatives were taking hold of the GOP. But that battle was won long ago and the Rockefeller liberals who once predominated (and largely formed the party’s real establishment) are long gone. Romney’s critics may see him as a moderate but by the standards of the Republican Party Reagan sought to revolutionize, today’s frontrunner is a conservative.

The former speaker of the House should, I suppose, be forgiven for saying anything to try and get his name in the news on a day when he may well be supplanted by Rick Santorum as the leading conservative alternative to Romney. But his attempt to link himself with Reagan’s legacy is still an embarrassing reach that says more about the candidate’s ego than his skills as a historian.

Read Less

The Santorum Scenario’s Day of Decision

The Republican presidential race is still at the stage where it is possible to spin theories about how frontrunner Mitt Romney can be toppled. Those scenarios aren’t particularly likely, but if there’s any credence to them at all, a couple of things are going to have to happen today to put a dent in the frontrunner’s armor. Newt Gingrich’s southern strategy requires him to survive a long wait until the next GOP debate scheduled for February 22 and to win big on Super Tuesday on March 6. But that’s a fairy tale for another day. Today’s long shot involves a Rick Santorum win in Minnesota and/or Missouri in order to elevate the former Pennsylvania senator to the position of the leading “non-Romney” as well as the standard bearer for conservatives in the race. But unlike Gingrich’s plans, which are undermined by the former speaker’s open hatred for Romney, the Santorum opening today is no fantasy.

The Minnesota caucus appears to be Santorum’s for the taking with the only current published poll of the state showing him with a narrow lead. And the Pennsylvanian has a real chance of knocking off Romney in the non-binding primary in Missouri. Though Romney is set to roll to a big win in Colorado, if Santorum can pull off upsets in at least one and possibly two of the other two states to vote today, it may not stop Romney but it could put a spike in Gingrich and enable Santorum to emerge as his main challenger.

Read More

The Republican presidential race is still at the stage where it is possible to spin theories about how frontrunner Mitt Romney can be toppled. Those scenarios aren’t particularly likely, but if there’s any credence to them at all, a couple of things are going to have to happen today to put a dent in the frontrunner’s armor. Newt Gingrich’s southern strategy requires him to survive a long wait until the next GOP debate scheduled for February 22 and to win big on Super Tuesday on March 6. But that’s a fairy tale for another day. Today’s long shot involves a Rick Santorum win in Minnesota and/or Missouri in order to elevate the former Pennsylvania senator to the position of the leading “non-Romney” as well as the standard bearer for conservatives in the race. But unlike Gingrich’s plans, which are undermined by the former speaker’s open hatred for Romney, the Santorum opening today is no fantasy.

The Minnesota caucus appears to be Santorum’s for the taking with the only current published poll of the state showing him with a narrow lead. And the Pennsylvanian has a real chance of knocking off Romney in the non-binding primary in Missouri. Though Romney is set to roll to a big win in Colorado, if Santorum can pull off upsets in at least one and possibly two of the other two states to vote today, it may not stop Romney but it could put a spike in Gingrich and enable Santorum to emerge as his main challenger.

The electorate in Minnesota seems to resemble that of Iowa where Santorum got his only victory so far with evangelicals and social conservatives dominating. That presents the perfect opening for Santorum, who is the one GOP hopeful most identified with the Christian right. Even Romney’s camp seems to acknowledge they have an uphill battle there. Romney’s chief surrogate Tim Pawlenty is going all out to try and convince Minnesota Tea Partiers that an earmark-loving big government conservative such as Santorum isn’t for them. But the former Minnesota governor — who seems much more comfortable roughing up Santorum than he was attacking Romney during his time in the presidential contest — has a difficult task convincing Minnesotans to back the frontrunner.

Missouri is another great opportunity for Santorum because he largely has had the state to himself. As was the case in Virginia, Gingrich’s incompetent and chaotic campaign wasn’t up to the task of assuring their candidate a place on the ballot.  And Romney has decided that because no delegates are up for grabs in this beauty contest, it’s not worth his time when other states offer bigger prizes. So that leaves Santorum with a chance to score in another state where conservatives could bring him victory. Wins in Minnesota and Missouri will help Santorum raise money and also discourage those thinking of pouring more cash down the Gingrich sinkhole.

As I’ve been writing the last couple of weeks, Santorum may not have fared particularly well in the last few states to vote, but he has burnished his image as a decent politician by staying out of the mudslinging that has characterized an increasingly bitter battle between Gingrich and Romney. That, along with the sympathy that was generated by the illness of Santorum’s little daughter Bella, has allowed the public to see a side of the senator that has often been obscured by his hard line stands on social issues: his essential decency. Too often he has allowed himself to come off as a public scold hounding the country on issues relating to abortion and gays and potentially alienating even some who might agree with him. But lately, he has seemed like the nicest guy left in the GOP field, and that is not a negligible quality.

Of course, even if today works out exactly as Santorum plans, that won’t necessarily do much to derail Romney as Santorum isn’t likely to best the frontrunner in many states that have yet to hold elections. And if Romney can steal Minnesota and Missouri from him without even trying hard then that will be the end of even the faintest hope of a Santorum surge. But if he does prevail, then we may be hearing a lot more from Santorum in the next couple of months.

Read Less

The Romney Machine Rolls On

With Mitt Romney’s overwhelming victory in Nevada– he won just over 50 percent of the vote –the former Massachusetts governor has secured three double-digit wins in the Northeast (New Hampshire), the West (Nevada), and the South (Florida). He remains in the catbird seat. For him to lose the nomination would require an epic collapse. I rather doubt we’ll see it.

What makes this week marginally interesting is whether Rick Santorum supplants Newt Gingrich as the “conservative alternative” to Romney. That depends on how Santorum does tomorrow in Colorado and Minnesota, the next states that hold GOP nominating contests, as well as Missouri, which holds a “beauty contest” (the state’s official nominating process takes place later in the year). It seems to me, and increasingly to others, that Santorum is a far better figure for conservatives to rally behind than Gingrich, whose weaknesses I have dealt with at length in the past. I’ll only add that at his press conference on Saturday Gingrich looked to be seething with rage for Romney, and he demonstrated, one more time, that he simply doesn’t have the emotional balance and temperamental traits that one looks for in a president. There’s something a bit sad in watching Gingrich, who has done a great deal for the conservative cause in his life, burn up like this.

Read More

With Mitt Romney’s overwhelming victory in Nevada– he won just over 50 percent of the vote –the former Massachusetts governor has secured three double-digit wins in the Northeast (New Hampshire), the West (Nevada), and the South (Florida). He remains in the catbird seat. For him to lose the nomination would require an epic collapse. I rather doubt we’ll see it.

What makes this week marginally interesting is whether Rick Santorum supplants Newt Gingrich as the “conservative alternative” to Romney. That depends on how Santorum does tomorrow in Colorado and Minnesota, the next states that hold GOP nominating contests, as well as Missouri, which holds a “beauty contest” (the state’s official nominating process takes place later in the year). It seems to me, and increasingly to others, that Santorum is a far better figure for conservatives to rally behind than Gingrich, whose weaknesses I have dealt with at length in the past. I’ll only add that at his press conference on Saturday Gingrich looked to be seething with rage for Romney, and he demonstrated, one more time, that he simply doesn’t have the emotional balance and temperamental traits that one looks for in a president. There’s something a bit sad in watching Gingrich, who has done a great deal for the conservative cause in his life, burn up like this.

As for Governor Romney: he’s now in excellent position to win the nomination. He’s winning elections, which is what matters. Non-Romney voters have not so far coalesced among any of the other candidates. Romney dominates among the GOP’s moderate wing, including non-Tea Party supporters and non-evangelicals. Most Republicans see him as the candidate with the best chance to beat President Obama in the fall. More than seven in 10 believe he’ll be the eventual nominee. He’s repelled every assault against him, having shown he can lift his game. And he retains a vast advantage over the other candidates in terms of money and organization.

But Romney still faces challenges. Voter turnout remains surprisingly low in most of the contests so far. He might be a bit vulnerable in parts of the Midwest. To date, he hasn’t been able to convince voters his campaign is tied to a great cause (it’s very Romney-centric right now). The cage match against Gingrich has hurt Romney’s reputation with (among others) independent voters. And nationally, Romney still doesn’t fair all that well among those who identify themselves as “very conservative” and evangelicals. It should be said, however, that Romney does quite well among those who consider themselves “somewhat conservative” and, as Jay Cost points out, Romney is actually pulling in the second-largest number of “very conservative” votes, and among all conservatives (“somewhat” and “very”), he leads Gingrich, 39 percent to 35 percent.

Where things stand at this moment, then, is that the Romney machine rolls on against a weak field. It’s hard to see how he’ll be stopped. Right now, Romney is a strong but not yet an outstanding candidate, steady and reassuring but hardly inspiring. And he needs to find a way to connect with working class voters. In short, he still needs to improve as he turns his attention to Obama, who is on the upswing. My guess is Romney will.

 

Read Less

Gingrich on the “Age of Austerity”

Talking Points Memo flags this “austerity” criticism from Newt Gingrich as a sign the speaker is out of touch with the rest of the Republican Party:

The 2012 Republican presidential candidate was asked by NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet The Press” whether his hopes for a U.S. colony on the moon fly in the face of the GOP’s fiscal responsibility mantra. Gingrich responded with some choice words about austerity itself before defending his lunar ambitions.

“First of all, David, I don’t think you’ll ever find me talking about an age of austerity. I don’t think that’s the right solution,” Gingrich said. “I am a pro-growth Republican. I’m a pro-growth conservative. I think the answer is to grow the economy, not to punish the American people with austerity.”

Read More

Talking Points Memo flags this “austerity” criticism from Newt Gingrich as a sign the speaker is out of touch with the rest of the Republican Party:

The 2012 Republican presidential candidate was asked by NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet The Press” whether his hopes for a U.S. colony on the moon fly in the face of the GOP’s fiscal responsibility mantra. Gingrich responded with some choice words about austerity itself before defending his lunar ambitions.

“First of all, David, I don’t think you’ll ever find me talking about an age of austerity. I don’t think that’s the right solution,” Gingrich said. “I am a pro-growth Republican. I’m a pro-growth conservative. I think the answer is to grow the economy, not to punish the American people with austerity.”

Writes TPM reporter Sahil Kapur:

His comments are remarkable in that they appear to contradict the core economic belief of the modern Republican Party that Gingrich hopes to lead. In this era of high deficits, austerity is routinely heralded by conservatives and GOP lawmakers as the path to economic prosperity, and the party was successful last year in keeping the issue atop the 2011 legislative agenda.

It’s a little simplistic to say austerity is the “core economic belief” of the Republican Party. Pro-growth policies should go hand-in-hand with necessary budget cuts. But that has little to do with Gingrich’s moon program, which comes off as wildly out-of-touch with what the conservative movement – and independent voters – think is necessary for the country’s future. In fact, according to a poll by The Hill today, just one out of five voters support Gingrich’s permanent moon colony proposal. As the public watches the default disaster unfolding in Greece, and our country’s own debt piles up, the appetite for a moon colony is understandably small.

Read Less

Why is Callista Gingrich So Quiet?

Maureen Dowd has a new piece out on Callista Gingrich this week, and while it devolves into unnecessary nastiness at the end, this part about the contrast between Newt’s and Mitt’s wives is worth noting:

Ann Romney often introduces her husband, chatting warmly about his uxorious virtues, and then disappears offstage or to the back of the stage while he talks. But the 45-year-old Callista has created an entirely new model for a spouse, standing mute in her primary color suits and triple-strand pearls looking at the 68-year-old Newt for the whole event, her platinum carapace inclined deferentially toward his shaggy gray mane. …

That may be why she has a largely nonspeaking role in the campaign, as silent as the slender heroine of “The Artist,” even though Newt relays that she has described herself as a hybrid of Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush and Jackie Kennedy. The campaign does not want to remind voters that the relationship, portrayed as so redemptive, was born in sin and hypocrisy.

Read More

Maureen Dowd has a new piece out on Callista Gingrich this week, and while it devolves into unnecessary nastiness at the end, this part about the contrast between Newt’s and Mitt’s wives is worth noting:

Ann Romney often introduces her husband, chatting warmly about his uxorious virtues, and then disappears offstage or to the back of the stage while he talks. But the 45-year-old Callista has created an entirely new model for a spouse, standing mute in her primary color suits and triple-strand pearls looking at the 68-year-old Newt for the whole event, her platinum carapace inclined deferentially toward his shaggy gray mane. …

That may be why she has a largely nonspeaking role in the campaign, as silent as the slender heroine of “The Artist,” even though Newt relays that she has described herself as a hybrid of Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush and Jackie Kennedy. The campaign does not want to remind voters that the relationship, portrayed as so redemptive, was born in sin and hypocrisy.

It wasn’t until after reading this that I realized I couldn’t even remember actually hearing Callista speak. A Google search for Callista Gingrich interviews – which brought up this 2009 clip of her sounding like a museum guide robot – only managed to amplify the Stepford Wife resemblance. This isn’t a person talking, it’s rote memorization. Which raises the question: is Gingrich uncomfortable with his wife speaking off-the-cuff?

This wouldn’t be an issue worth mentioning if Newt didn’t already have a serious problem with women voters, one some pundits say may have cost him Florida. While Gingrich’s advisers may think keeping Callista quiet will draw less attention to Newt’s infidelity, in fact, the exact opposite is probably true. Women see Callista trailing her husband around the country like a silent mannequin and find it instinctively off-putting: Why is he so uncomfortable with his wife taking a normal role in the campaign? What’s wrong with him? If Newt wants to understand his problem with women voters, he has to realize Callista’s odd silence plays a part in it.

Read Less

Gingrich’s Bad Week May Get Worse

Newt Gingrich’s week started out badly for him with a crushing loss in the Nevada caucuses that was followed by a press conference in which the former speaker demonstrated anew that his candidacy is driven as much by personal hatred of frontrunner Mitt Romney as it is by his own ambition. But things got worse for him today with the release of fresh polling data in two of the states to hold caucuses on Tuesday. Public Policy Polling’s latest findings on the caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota show him trailing not only Romney but also Rick Santorum.

In Colorado, Romney is poised for another big win, with PPP showing him leading with 40 percent of the vote. But rather than Gingrich, it is Rick Santorum who is in second place there with 26 percent. Gingrich is in third with 18 percent while Ron Paul is in last with 12 percent. Even more alarming for the speaker is that Santorum is in the lead in Minnesota edging Romney 29 to 27 percent with Gingrich in third trailing behind with 22 percent. What this means is though Gingrich’s strategy may be to hold on until the Super Tuesday primaries, by then it may be clear it is Santorum who is the only viable “non-Romney” left in the race.

Read More

Newt Gingrich’s week started out badly for him with a crushing loss in the Nevada caucuses that was followed by a press conference in which the former speaker demonstrated anew that his candidacy is driven as much by personal hatred of frontrunner Mitt Romney as it is by his own ambition. But things got worse for him today with the release of fresh polling data in two of the states to hold caucuses on Tuesday. Public Policy Polling’s latest findings on the caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota show him trailing not only Romney but also Rick Santorum.

In Colorado, Romney is poised for another big win, with PPP showing him leading with 40 percent of the vote. But rather than Gingrich, it is Rick Santorum who is in second place there with 26 percent. Gingrich is in third with 18 percent while Ron Paul is in last with 12 percent. Even more alarming for the speaker is that Santorum is in the lead in Minnesota edging Romney 29 to 27 percent with Gingrich in third trailing behind with 22 percent. What this means is though Gingrich’s strategy may be to hold on until the Super Tuesday primaries, by then it may be clear it is Santorum who is the only viable “non-Romney” left in the race.

A Santorum victory in Minnesota alongside a Romney win in Colorado isn’t likely to derail the frontrunner. But it will, along with the results in Missouri’s non-binding primary where Gingrich isn’t even on the ballot, bolster the idea that the former Pennsylvania senator is the only real alternative to the Romney juggernaut.

Though Santorum’s chances at the nomination are not much better than those of Gingrich, his might be a protest candidacy that might not tear the party apart. The worst he has said of Romney is he can’t beat Obama. The contrast in the last few days between Santorum and Gingrich couldn’t be stronger. While Santorum has avoided mudslinging and reaped a lot of good will because of the public’s sympathy for him about his daughter Bella’s illness, Gingrich has more or less gone off the deep end. His bitterness at being beaten in the debates before the Florida primary and being trounced by Romney in the last two primaries has become the main theme of his candidacy.

Gingrich’s advantage over Santorum has been money. But if Gingrich’s main backers, such as pro-Israel casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, become convinced he is embarked on a suicide mission whose only purpose is Romney’s destruction, they may decide to pull the plug on him. If this week’s results allow Santorum to get ahead of Gingrich, the speaker may never catch him and soon find himself fading out of the race altogether.

Read Less

Paulbots Crash Adelson Caucus

Last night’s late-evening caucus for Jewish voters who couldn’t participate in the morning caucus due to Shabbat conflicts cranked up the typical anti-Jewish paranoia of the Ron Paul community to a new level. Not only were the conspiracy theorists out in full force on the Ron Paul fan-sites (but I repeat myself), they also showed up en masse at the special caucus, which was hosted at a school run by Gingrich-backer Sheldon Adelson:

Next came about 25 passionate speakers for Paul. In short order, the scene in the auditorium began to feel like a revival meeting for anti-government paranoiacs.

The first one accused the government of “genocide.” Another complained that Paul was the victim of media bias, as evidenced by the fact that in the GOP debates, “When they go on Ron Paul the lighting’s dimmer.” Another accused the government of “using our own men as guinea pigs.”

As Gingrich, across town, was vowing bitterly to continue his campaign, a Paul supporter was testifying: “Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney run the two-legged race together at Bohemian Grove! There’s not a bit of difference between those two puppets! I got one word to describe my support for Ron Paul, and that is: End the Fed!”

Read More

Last night’s late-evening caucus for Jewish voters who couldn’t participate in the morning caucus due to Shabbat conflicts cranked up the typical anti-Jewish paranoia of the Ron Paul community to a new level. Not only were the conspiracy theorists out in full force on the Ron Paul fan-sites (but I repeat myself), they also showed up en masse at the special caucus, which was hosted at a school run by Gingrich-backer Sheldon Adelson:

Next came about 25 passionate speakers for Paul. In short order, the scene in the auditorium began to feel like a revival meeting for anti-government paranoiacs.

The first one accused the government of “genocide.” Another complained that Paul was the victim of media bias, as evidenced by the fact that in the GOP debates, “When they go on Ron Paul the lighting’s dimmer.” Another accused the government of “using our own men as guinea pigs.”

As Gingrich, across town, was vowing bitterly to continue his campaign, a Paul supporter was testifying: “Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney run the two-legged race together at Bohemian Grove! There’s not a bit of difference between those two puppets! I got one word to describe my support for Ron Paul, and that is: End the Fed!”

And what about all those predictions that Adelson was going to “steal” the caucus for Gingrich (and the alternative theories that the late-evening caucus was a “distraction” so that the establishment could pocket Nevada for Romney)? Shockingly enough, they never came to pass. The Adelson school caucus went overwhelmingly to Ron Paul, by 58 percent. Meanwhile, Romney won the state by a landslide, and his win was projected before the nighttime caucus even began.

As Jonathan wrote last week, the late-evening caucus to allow Orthodox Jews to vote was the right thing to do. But critics were also right to question the ethics and constitutionality of requiring participants to fill out forms saying they missed the earlier voting for religious reasons.

However, Ron Paul’s robocall to his supporters asking them to crash the caucus – and the vile anti-Jewish paranoia about it on the pro-Paul websites – shows exactly why the Republican Party should keep Paul and his fans at arms-length. Should Paul supporters have the right to attend the late-evening caucus, just like the Orthodox Jewish voters it was designed to accommodate? Sure. But they should have done so because they honestly had a voting conflict, not to disrupt the event, and definitely not based on psychotic Jewish conspiracy theories.

Read Less

New Newt? Same Sore Loser Strategy

There were rumors flying around the blogosphere on Saturday night as the Nevada caucus returns were being tabulated that Newt Gingrich would use his press conference to adopt a new, more positive strategy going forward. But after watching Gingrich’s bizarre 11 pm presser, it would appear that the new positive Newt bears a strange resemblance to the old nasty Newt. Gingrich spent most of his session with the press venting his bitterness at Mitt Romney. While vowing to continue his presidential campaign, the main focus of his remarks was not his differences with President Obama but the anger he feels toward the GOP frontrunner.

As he did after losing in Florida, Gingrich again failed to congratulate Romney for winning in Nevada. But, if anything, his rage about being beaten in the pre-Florida primary debates has only grown. Calling Romney a liar, Gingrich piled on the abuse, trying to link him to leftist financier George Soros. Listening to Gingrich, it was clear his campaign was being driven as much by his animus for Romney as it was by his own burning ambition for the presidency. But the question for Gingrich’s main financial backers today has to be whether they are interested in continuing to subsidize an effort that seems more focused on damaging the likely Republican standard bearer than on beating the incumbent.

Read More

There were rumors flying around the blogosphere on Saturday night as the Nevada caucus returns were being tabulated that Newt Gingrich would use his press conference to adopt a new, more positive strategy going forward. But after watching Gingrich’s bizarre 11 pm presser, it would appear that the new positive Newt bears a strange resemblance to the old nasty Newt. Gingrich spent most of his session with the press venting his bitterness at Mitt Romney. While vowing to continue his presidential campaign, the main focus of his remarks was not his differences with President Obama but the anger he feels toward the GOP frontrunner.

As he did after losing in Florida, Gingrich again failed to congratulate Romney for winning in Nevada. But, if anything, his rage about being beaten in the pre-Florida primary debates has only grown. Calling Romney a liar, Gingrich piled on the abuse, trying to link him to leftist financier George Soros. Listening to Gingrich, it was clear his campaign was being driven as much by his animus for Romney as it was by his own burning ambition for the presidency. But the question for Gingrich’s main financial backers today has to be whether they are interested in continuing to subsidize an effort that seems more focused on damaging the likely Republican standard bearer than on beating the incumbent.

Coming from a man who has spent most of his career demonizing his foes on both sides on the aisle, his whining about Romney’s negativity is, at best, hypocritical. It also undermines his chance of gaining ground in a race where he seems unlikely to have a chance to win a state until Super Tuesday in March. Gingrich has soared at times when he has been able to speak up for conservative values and express the beliefs of grass roots Republicans.

Many Republicans are still unsure about Romney and feel he is not a true conservative. But one of the biggest problems for Gingrich these days is that his hatred for Romney seems to be driving his candidacy more than anything else. Nor is it likely he can continue to raise the money he needs to carry on if he pursues a sore loser scenario whose only real goal seems to be to cripple Romney. In his victory speech in Nevada, Romney ignored his GOP rivals and concentrated his fire on President Obama. If Gingrich’s main financial backer Sheldon Adelson’s priority is to beat Obama in November, this might be the time to pull the plug on a Gingrich kamikaze mission aimed primarily at the all but inevitable nominee.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.