No matter who won the Republican nomination for President last year, that person was going to have a tough time of it since, as it turns out, there were enough people in America who were stupid enough to vote for Barack Obama or not vote for Mitt Romney (they voted for someone else or didn't vote). While I hemmed and hawed through much of the primary season, I really found Newt Gingrich to be the best candidate, warts and all. Yes, he's had some problems; but, I believe his conservative credentials were solid and he was able to put them into practice (not always, but most of the time) when there was a Democrat in the White House. But by the time Arkansas had its primary, Gingrich was out of the race.
Gingrich matters because I see the battle lines being drawn for the 2016 Republican nomination between Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. I like them both, but my preference right now is for Paul (no, I was never for his father; Rand Paul is a much more pragmatic conservative, but conservative nonetheless). I believe Paul is a tad more principled a conservative than Rubio. But I see a problem for Paul, a problem that Romney never did address: illegal aliens. This is a problem the federal government has to be involved in, so this isn't an argument about supporting a "big government" solution. And right now, it is Rubio who has recognized the problem with illegal aliens, something Gingrich points out in a recent newsletter he sent out.
During the debates, I thought Gingrich came up with a real "outside the box" solution for dealing with illegal aliens. Recognizing that there is already a de facto amnesty in this country, and that's even before Obama's real amnesty he gave to students who are illegal aliens, Gingrich proposed securing the border and to have local community review boards determine which illegal aliens should stay and which should go. Right away, many conservatives falsely declared Gingrich supported an immediate amnesty. This included Romney, who wrongly hammered Gingrich as an amnesty supporter. But if someone actually listened to what Gingrich was saying, it wasn't true. Worse, Romney never addressed it at all during his campaign, other than to expand e-verify (something Gingrich, Paul, and Rubio all support).
Now, I'm not naïve enough to think immigration was that much of a factor in this election, nor demographics; as far as I'm concerned, most who identify themselves as Hispanic love big government taking care of them, so most are going to vote for Democrats anyway. But it was a factor in the GOP primary, and had Gingrich won, it might have made a difference. This is especially true since it didn't help that conservatives were bashing Gingrich for something he didn't support, falsely claiming he supported blanket amnesty. Instead, it was taken out of the equation with Romney as the nominee, much like Obamacare was. Which is why I believe Rand Paul needs to expand on how he would intend to deal with illegal aliens, possibly by using a variation of Gingrich's idea including in Rubio's legislation. Even if it doesn't pass, at least Paul will have staked his claim and be able to more effectively challenge Rubio if both run in 2016.
Cross-posted at Scipio the Metalcon.