Will he be stopped? If it were Christmas Day, I’d say it would be tough to do. But it is December 7th and I’ll be very, very surprised if Gingrich’s numbers hold up until January 3.
Why? There is just so much trouble that can rain down on his head in very fast order.
The only Speaker of the House to be driven from his Speakership and his Seat in the House because of a combination of ethics violations, ineffective leadership, and general obnoxiousness, he became a money making enterprise whose only real product was influence through his association with those in government.
In that capacity, he has sold awards from his so-called leadership foundation to many persons, groups and businesses including strip clubs (and then hastily withdrawn them when the progressive press did a little digging). He took donations for a book reading incentive program and used 80 percent of the money to pay three cronies. He earned a small fortune as a “historian” charged with making Fannie and Freddie too good to believe. There is a lot of this with Gingrich.
Gingrich is very vulnerable on matters of policy. Focus on Gingrich’s past policy statements in support of cap-and-trade, the need for a federal health insurance mandate, proposals to legalize medical marijuana, support of what he called the model GSE’s Freddie and Fannie, his strong defense of climate change as established science etc. and you know he stands on a foundation made of sand. Gingrich has made a career of saying whatever those who pay him want him to say.
Now consider what is supposed to be one of his greatest strengths but what is actually his Debate Achilles Heel. Have you seen the clip where Gingrich promised that if Obama didn’t agree to a series of three hour Lincoln Douglass debates, Gingrich would follow Obama around the country giving intellectual deconstructions of whatever Obama had just said in a given city? Gingrich is doing something really dangerous here by raising already inflated expectations about his skill as a debate performer.
What many conservatives believe has been his performance in debates has produced the sense that Gingrich would kill Obama in a debate. But if you’ve seen Gingrich debate with a prepared opponent from the left-of-center his performance pales. I once saw Gingrich take on Ralph Nader….and get killed. He does not do well in formal interviews with journalists and avoids them. Conservatives have seen Gingrich tell off debate moderators and are fantasizing about Gingrich reducing Obama to a puddle by telling Obama to his face that he is a socialist, secularist, bureaucratic, Kenyan, statist, reactionary, blah, blah, blah.
But several factors have gone into Gingrich’s so-called strong debate performances which point to his inherent weakness.
First is that he has a very good sense of what conservative narratives resonate with on the national level (though as the Ryan “right-wing social engineering” thing showed, this sense isn’t flawless.) As a result he is great at doing what he as been paid to do for many years, telling them what they want to hear.
Second, he has smartly picked his fights with the debate moderators,the easily targeted main stream media, and the absent President Obama rather than his fellow Republican candidates.
Third, the other candidates have mostly left him alone to do his Gingrich thing assuming he was a non-player. The incentive is now there for Bachmann, Perry, Paul and Santorum to go at Gingrich hard and from all kinds of directions at the Republican debates that are going to happen in the next couple of weeks. Gingrich is the key to a potentially far right big bump for one of the also-rans.
So, the next two debates pose several kinds of risks for Gingrich.
The first is that the other candidates will publicize his record as a pro-federal health insurance mandate, pro-amnesty, pro-cap-and-trade, paid shill for Freddie Mac working as a crony capitalist, flip-flop artist. The charges are bad enough, but it is worse that these charges are true.
The second is that there is a substantial portion of Gingrich supporters who know most of this and look past it because they think the Republicans need a Gingrich-type slugger as their nominee to defeat Obama in the general election. They don’t support him because they think he is a good guy. They support him because they think he is rough, tough, wickedly smart, and an invincible debater. BUT, if Gingrich gets bruised by all the attacks that will come in the next couple of debates, he won’t just look like a pro-federal health insurance mandate, pro-amnesty, pro-cap-and-trade, paid shill for Freddie Mac working as a crony capitalist, flip-flop artist. He will also look like an overrated, washed up loser posing as a bully.
And he has other problems.
A penchant for divisive language. Newt, as a rhetorical device, will use the most divisive possible language to describe his position vs. his opponent’s position. He’ll then use that to bring you to his side. That’s the kind of thing he does when the adrenaline’s flowing….and he is not considering the damage he is doing…to himself. It is a great way to make a news splash and to make lots of enemies. Often unnecessarily so.
Too many ideas at once. He really is a man with lots of ideas. The problem is, if you get thirty ideas a day, some of them won’t be benign, some of them will contradict ideas from yesterday or the day before and some of them will be badly conceived from start to finish. He has few intellectual brakes or filters. He has no advisers, counselors, or confidantes.
No base of support in the House GOP remains. His base of support over the years have been the House Republicans. But the influence he peddled for years had waned. Many of his old colleagues in the House were no longer there, and many of those who are remember him negatively. In recent years his “Solutions” network has grown less and less important as his ersatz influence has been exposed. And now a number of them are speaking aloud their disdain for him and their fear of his candidacy, or worse, his presidency.
At the root of it all, Gingrich’s greatest weakness is a megalomania that is truly epic. From this narcissist’s point of view, the public has no choice: God has given him superhuman powers to use for their good whether they like it or not.
If Gingrich were a stock, I’d say sell high, which means sell soon.