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Newt’s a Political Swinger

The first rule of medicine is the first rule of politics and it’s simple – “Do No Harm.”  As this bad reality TV show of a GOP primary season continues and Gingrich gains some momentum, evangelicals and other conservative groups desperately searching for the anti-Romney should think about the bigger picture.  Similarly, Tea Party groups should look to their backyards for more exciting candidates and contests.  Both groups need to ask themselves in selecting a candidate who will first and foremost “do no harm” to the down-ballot races.

We have to face the political reality that the search for a real, bold conservative leader as the “Romney alternative” is at this point a fruitless enterprise.  Conservative Republican voters can project anything they want onto Gingrich, but he is really a conservative of convenience and it can be argued that his actual record is more progressive than conservative.

Ignore the rhetoric. Newt’s a political “swinger” who will pretty much say anything to get people into his bed.

This year seems to be one of unfortunate choices.  The more genuinely conservative candidates either chose not to run, or lacked organization, funding and the preparation to mount legitimate campaigns, or simply botched their campaigns, leaving voters with a choice between “conservatives of convenience” Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.  Santorum’s dismal fiscal record makes him barely worthy of mention.

Put simply, our choices have boiled down to a guy who lost reelection by almost 20 points after spearheading the infamous pay-for-play K-Street Project; a man who helped give birth to the Contract With America, who then became one of the most reviled men in American politics; and a former Massachusetts Governor who ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in 1994 but has opportunely found conservativism on the campaign trail.

Conservatives know about Romney’s flip flops, but choose to ignore Gingrich’s record. His support for Medicare Part D, TARP, individual mandates, and climate regulations to say nothing about a personal background that rivals Bill Clinton’s moral challenges, make the right’s flirtation with Gingrich hypocritical and irresponsible.

There’s an old saying, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”  It’s true – though I’m not even sure at times that Newt’s dog likes Newt.  But more troubling is that his high negatives with the electorate generally can have a damaging effect on key Senate and House races should he be the nominee. While no fan of Romney’s by a long stretch, I find it hard to argue that Romney would be damaging to the Republican cause this fall among non-Republican voters, and if elected, wouldn’t move the country in a rightward direction on fiscal and economic issues.

Conservative primary voters should be mindful that who we nominate will be the top of the entire Republican ticket.  They won’t run in a vacuum.  The impact of that person and their campaign goes far beyond the presidential race to the down-ballot races for US Senate, Congress, Governor and state legislature.

This still is a critical year for conservativism in America and there is still a great deal of work to be done.  In the general election, our choice is simple – either more Obama or someone else.  True, a lot of folks among the GOP base just can’t get excited about Newt or Romney as the nominee, but their voice and work are still desperately needed.  Every member of the House of Representatives is up next year and literally thousands of state and local officials are as well.  There is also an enormous opportunity to end the impotent, liberal control of the US Senate and some Republicans who should be held to account for irresponsible votes.

Tea Party members need to start looking beyond the presidential race to their own backyard to get excited.  There is real potential for a reverse trend here with the Tea Party boosting the ticket from the bottom up rather than the usual top down. As in 2010, the Tea Party has the ability to drive the process from the local level while liberals continue to look to a more top-down approach fueled by the Obama machine.

Remember, Obama, even if he wins re-election (and that’s a big if) would be hamstrung if Republicans control the House and the Senate.  The liberal agenda will be thwarted even more by controlling statehouses and local governments coast-to-coast.  After all, those levels of government impact our daily lives just as much, if not more, than what happens in Washington.

We can’t afford to allow the presidential campaign to be a barrier to broader success.  At the end of the day, whoever the GOP nominee is cannot be used as an excuse for not working this year to get good people elected at all levels of government.  We are fighting against an enemy whose aim is to not just defeat us, but crush us so that government can overpower the free market and strangle the freedom we enjoy.

I’m telling conservatives and Tea Partiers: don’t feel like you have to endorse anyone in the Presidential, especially if you want to avoid that 6 am walk of shame a few months from now.  Just find a candidate in your own backyard that you know you can trust and believe in and get to work on the ground.

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