Is it time for a second look?
With all the chaos surrounding the Republican nomination race, one thing is very clear: somewhere along the way, Mitt Romney made a Damn Yankees-like pact with Satan to score this group of individuals to run against. It is certain that a vast majority of Republican primary voters do not like Mitt Romney. In fact, we can go further – they can’t stand him. That’s why he’s never broken 30 percent in any national poll of Republican primary voters. That’s why Tea Party support has shuffled from Michele Bachmann to Rick Perry to Herman Cain.
Sadly, though, none of those candidates have been a vessel expansive enough to contain the unbridled enthusiasm of the Tea Party movement. Bachmann’s support fell apart when she began committing boneheaded linguistic gaffes – and more so when Rick Perry jumped into the race. Perry’s campaign fell apart when he suggested that anyone who did not agree with the Texas DREAM Act was heartless – and more so when he disintegrated in the debates. Cain’s campaign fell apart when it became clear he was an amateur – although it took the capper of the sexual harassment charges to do serious damage.
With the descent of Cain, the Republican base is still searching the wilderness for someone to carry its standard. There are only a few folks they haven’t tried. One is Jon Huntsman. The former Utah governor will never get their respect or love because of his association with President Obama. Another is luckless Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania who stands for all the right things in all the wrong ways. His acidic manner – he constantly looks like he’s just sucked a lemon – has sunk an otherwise appealing platform.
Who is left? Newt Gingrich.
It is clear that Gingrich is the smartest man on the stage in the Republican debates. Virtually everyone has acknowledged it over and over again. He is dazzlingly articulate. He knows the issues inside and out. Is there any other candidate on that stage that Republicans would trust with Obama? Gingrich would undoubtedly turn the bloviating incumbent inside out. As Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal rightly wrote this week, “The former speaker has stood out at these forums, the debater whose audiences seem to hang on his words and on a flow of thought rich in substance, a world apart from the usual that the political season brings.” He has done that while avoiding attacking the other candidates on the stage. And he has done it while keeping his ire squarely on the liberal media and the White House.
But, of course, Newt has baggage. Lots of it. His personal life was obviously a shambles – he’s now on his third marriage. His first wife was his former high school teacher, seven years his senior; he had an affair with his second wife while married to his first. He then married his second wife; he had an affair with one of his staffers, who later became his third wife. Practically speaking, this means that in a general election, he’ll have some trouble with the female vote.
Then there’s his activities since leaving office as Speaker of the House. In 2008, Gingrich posed with Pelosi for an ad on global warming in which he urged Congressional action on climate change. Unlike Romney, however, who has never apologized for his past liberalism, Gingrich has openly stated that this was “the single dumbest thing I’ve done in years.” More troubling, Gingrich attended the Education Equality Project conference, sponsored by race-baiting thug Al Sharpton – although that conference did include participants who went after the teachers’ unions. He endorsed RINO Dede Scozzafava in the NY-23 House race, though he said he endorsed Scozzafava as a first step toward a Republican Revolution rather than because he thought she was truly conservative. Back in 2005, Gingrich flattered Hillary Clinton to the skies, and embraced her over health-care; he reinforced that in 2011 when he said he supported a federal mandate forcing citizens to buy health insurance. Finally, he attacked Paul Ryan’s proposal to overhaul Medicare “radical,” and “right-wing social engineering.” And when forced to answer whether the bailout was necessary, Gingrich came down on the “yes” side.
Yes, that’s a hell of a lot of baggage. So, what separates Gingrich from Romney? Two elements: first, Gingrich has distanced himself from all of that baggage by apologizing for it. Second, Gingrich’s liberal leanings have all been out of office, while Romney’s liberal leanings were all in office. When Gingrich was actually in a position of power, he was perhaps the most conservative Speaker of the House in American history. The Republican Revolution of 1994 was his baby. Welfare reform was his baby. The booming Clinton economy? That could be more accurately attributed to Gingrich. On foreign policy, Newt has never wavered – he has always been a hawk. Down deep, Newt is a conservative. Romney is not. The proof is in the pudding rather than the posturing.
And again, Gingrich is smart. Very smart. He will not step into the political minefields set by Obama. At the same time, he is not afraid to embrace the Tea Party and its principles. He wrote in one of his recent books, “The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” He knows the problem. He knows the solution. The only question is whether he will pursue it.
The answer, at least when he held power, was yes. If he can make us remember what he did while in office and forget what he did while out of office, Newt might be worth more than just a second look.
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