Yesterday, Newt Gingrich, in an interview on Fox News Sunday, said, “The fact is, Romney is probably the weakest Republican frontrunner since Leonard Wood in 1920. Yes, he’s the frontrunner, but he’s not a very strong frontrunner, nearly all conservatives are opposed to him. In places where no one else can compete … he does fine.” (Leonard Wood was an Army General who lost the GOP nomination to Warren Harding in 1920.)
How weak or how strong a frontrunner Mitt Romney is will be determined by future events. But we do know several things. The first is that against this “weakest Republican frontrunner since … 1920,” Gingrich has won precisely two primaries–South Carolina and his home state of Georgia. Which makes Gingrich 2-26 in all the primary and caucus elections held to date– a winning percentage of less than 0.08 percent (versus better than 60 percent for Romney). So if Romney is the weakest frontrunner since 1920, does that make Gingrich the weakest challenger since the pre-Civil War era?
As for the argument that “nearly all conservatives are opposed to him,” that is simply wrong. It’s true that those who consider themselves “strongly conservative” have voted for Romney’s opponents more than they’ve voted for Romney — but it’s also true that Romney does quite well with those who self-identify as “somewhat conservative.” And for those for whom Romney is not the first choice, he’s often the second choice. By my count, Romney has finished third or worse in two contests; Gingrich has finished third or worse in more than 20. So the idea that there’s widespread conservative opposition to Romney just isn’t supported by the data.
As for Gingrich’s claim Romney does fine “in places where no one else can compete” with him, that claim is also silly. In virtually every contest he’s won, Romney has faced competition, including winning three crucial come-from-behind victories in Florida, Michigan, and Ohio (the former Massachusetts governor trailed by double digits).
It doesn’t take a person with a degree in psychiatry to understand what’s happening here. Gingrich is a person who views himself as a world-historical figure. He sees a nomination he (foolishly) believed he had wrapped up three months ago slip away. He has convinced himself his loss is the result of a cosmic injustice, that he was the victim of the worst smear campaign since Jefferson v. Adams. And he simply cannot let it go.
There is something poignant in hearing Gingrich repeat, time and time again, that there was a moment in time, in December, when he led the Gallup poll. (Having a lead in a Gallup poll is a claim most people who entered the GOP race can make, including Donald Trump, who was tied for the GOP lead in August.)
Newt Gingrich is a talented fellow. But his inability to control his emotions, combined with an inflated sense of his own greatness, has plagued him throughout this campaign, as it has for his entire career. One can only hope that he soon makes his own inner peace with his failure to win the GOP nomination