« BACK  |  PRINT

RS

MEMBER DIARY

Santorum Surges, Newt Sinks

Today are the Iowa Caucuses. The 2012 campaign season is kicking off.  Wow. Time sure flies. And while Newt Gingrich seemed to be challenging Mitt Romney just a month ago, the Newt bandwagon has derailed.

Iowa is a strange sort of primary – in-home caucus groups meeting across the state – that could have a big surprise like a suddenly strong showing by Rick Santorum and a win by Mitt Romney.

Romney was not expecting an Iowa victory even three weeks ago, but a victory there would shine Romney up for New Hampshire and the other states like South Carolina and Florida. And after just a month of primaries, Romney could seem like the inevitable candidate.

The positive effect of this could be that the Republicans can rally around Romney starting in March or April and start running down Obama early.

Santorum’s rise, however, comes just at the right time. He obviously has played an Iowa Strategy to a T. Both Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama were launched with Iowa victories, and Santorum has attended more than 380(!) individual town hall meetings across the state in his quest. Go Rick!!!

How has Gingrich collapsed so quickly after his big surge in November and December?

Because Newt Gingrich is a weird guy. He is very smart but perhaps one of those guys who is “too smart for his own good”. And his public image is very checkered and for a good reason. Newt too often speaks and acts off the cuff, in roundabout historical terms, or outside the bounds of comprehension and decorum.

I have always casually admired Newt. I think he would be a good president. He was effective in politics in the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. Yet four years later, his own party wanted him gone.

Indeed Gingrich has been controversial from the start. What can you say about a guy who, at age 19, married his high school algebra teacher who was 26?

Indeed Newt has created many of his own image problems.

When he found himself unable to get on the Virginia primary ballot, he did not say, “It’s too bad we didn’t work harder.” He compared it to Pearl Harbor…

C’mon Newt! This is not exactly the kind of talk that leads to the White House. It is far too loose.

Romney jumped on the Pearl Harbor comment and said that Gingrich is like Lucy in the chocolate factory, a reference to an old Lucille Ball skit from the 1950s know to tens of millions of baby boomers. It was an effective piece of political repartee because it caricatured Gingrich in a lighthearted way that would make people smile. Because it aroused a comical image of Lucy on the assembly line, stuffing chocolates into her mouth in a show of old-fashioned humor. Romney obviously has a very savvy PR crew advising him.

Newt has made Republicans nervous by repeatedly praising FDR. He posed with Nancy Pelosi for a ‘global warming’ ad. He supports the individual health insurance mandate. He slammed congressman Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan. And on and on.

Yet on the other hand Newt has been strong in all the debates.  And when he said, for instance, that poor kids (i.e., referring to black kids) don’t have role models that can show them how to work, conservatives agreed with his boldness. But this is the type of blunt language that could be used against Gingrich in the general court of public opinion.

In other words, Newt seems to bounce from one extreme to the other, which is unhealthy in politics. Like hero in 1994 to zero in 1998.

Romney does not make these offhanded unequivocal statements like Gingrich does. Because Romney is very cagey in his strategy. He is being moderately aggressive but also is playing somewhat defensively and cautiously, but don’t be fooled. Every few days Romney hurls a rhetorical thunderbolt at Obama. Have you noticed?

But Gingrich has struck chords with conservatives with his proposal to make judges come before legislative panels to explain their decisions. This would be intended to rein in judicial activism and millions of us on the right have said, “That is a good idea…”

But then again some Republicans have called it a lame-brained idea that is not even Constitutional, including two former attorneys general of the United States. So there you go. Newt again is being seen as a man of perhaps one too many ideas, more a think tank than a candidate.

Newt’s multiple marriages also are working against him. It seems that he can’t just be normal in any way. And now his lavish spending on his third wife, who is much younger than he is, seems just a tad out of line with his frugal conservatism.

Newt surged to the top of the primary pack in November. It seemed that he could be the nominee. But we had seen this before with Bachmann, Perry and Cain.

Each challenger has had a fatal flaw. Bachmann is very smart but not well-known enough. Perry stumbled in the debates, but is young and could run again for the presidency. Cain was railroaded out of the campaign on unproven charges. (Where have Cain’s accusers gone, by the way?)

Now we have Gingrich who peaked and who is now sliding in the polls. And with Newt’s decline, the Republican Establishment in Washington is surely breathing a sigh of relief. They have backed Romney from the start, but for several weeks there was a dreadful feeling that Gingrich was going to win the primary but would lose the general election. Meanwhile the GOP plan was that Romney could win the general election but it seemed like he might not be able to win the primary if Gingrich stayed strong.

Well, things are back to normal now. Romney seems to be back on top. There even was a mini-stampede at a Romney campaign appearance in New Hampshire recently, adding to an aura that people want to be around him, that he is gaining presidential traction. If this keeps up, as it also happened in Iowa, that will be a good thing. There’s nothing like a little ‘buzz’ to enliven a campaign. And in case you don’t remember, the only ‘buzz’ in McCain’s 2008 campaign was… Sarah Palin.

Romney’s good looks are helping him too, while Newt seems like a caricature of a Republican – a fat white guy with a photographic memory for historical facts who doesn’t much care for blacks or other groups who do not traditionally support the GOP or partake of his scholarly world view.

After his rise there developed a chorus of nationwide anti-Newt sentiment as Republicans and conservatives became nervous. Now, however, it looks like Newt’s day in the sun may be over. And with Gingrich’s checkered past and his very uneven performance during this campaign, many people on the “right” side of the issues are breathing easier.

Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more conservative insights.

Get Alerts