One of the most bizarre narratives I have ever seen take hold during a Presidential campaign is the narrative that Newt Gingrich, who spent three decades in Washington, ultimately rising to the top of the House leadership, is the “outsider” and “TEA Party” candidate whereas Mitt Romney, who has never had a job in Washington in his life (although admittedly that is not for lack of trying), is the “establishment” or “insider” candidate. Newt is not without his redeeming qualities but I have to confess that whenever he rants in his inimitable style about the “Establishment” I am struck with a powerful sense of vertigo.
It isn’t just Newt’s ancient past that presents this problem. As recently as 2010, when TEA Party fervor was sweeping the nation, Newt Gingrich was completely absent from its key battles or just as often was on the completely wrong side of the debate. In NY-23, Gingrich endorsed Dede Scozzafava right before she bolted the party and endorsed the Democrat (for the record, Romney donated $5,000 to and endorsed Hoffman). In Utah, Bob Bennett kicked off his campaign with an endorsement from Newt Gingrich who aggressively campaigned on his behalf (Romney also supported Bennett and then donated $5,000 through his PAC to Mike Lee). In Delaware, Newt confidently predicted Mike Castle would win and then was completely absent from the discussion over the race until O’Donnell won the primary (Romney donated $5,000 to O’Donnell, but I’m not clear whether that was before or after the primary was over).
In virtually every major TEA Party fight in 2010 – Toomey vs. Specter, Paul v. Grayson, Crist v. Rubio, Gingrich was either AWOL until the matter was completely decided or on the wrong side. The only Senate candidate that Newt’s PAC donated to whatsoever was Scott Brown.
For all of his many faults (and watching his speech last night I have very grave concerns about his ability to ever learn to sound like a real human being), Romney apparently learned the right lesson from his thumping in 2008, as he busted his hump in 2010 raising money for and campaigning for Republicans, including TEA Party Republicans (Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, Jim Demint, Ron Johnson, Ovide Lamontagne, Marco Rubio, John Raese and Pat Toomey, among many others, got $5,000 or more from Romney in 2010).
I again emphasize that there are a lot of candidates out there that I would prefer to see as our nominee than Mitt Romney but if this really is a contest between “Establishment Republicans” and “TEA Party Republicans,” I am at a loss to know how Gingrich has any claim to TEA Party support at all, or how he somehow escaped the label of “Establishment” when he is one of the most “Establishment” candidates who has run for President in my lifetime.