Is Newt Still Viable?

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

The question leading into Monday night’s South Carolina Republican presidential debate on FoxNews was simple and direct.  Does Newt Gingrich remain a viable alternative to Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination?

Romney has long been the leader of fundraising and organization.  While many of the non-Mitts have had their turn as presumed front Runner, Romney has remained steady in his poll numbers.  More importantly, he has demonstrated his fundraising and organizational advantage by winning the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Gingrich, meanwhile, was the last of the non-Mitts to hold the front runner title going into the holiday season, where voter focus was diverted and daily tracking polls became less than significant.  During this time, however, Gingrich faced an onslaught of negative attacks and ads causing his poll numbers to drop, and were the excuse given for the candidate to drop his pledge to remain positive.

After coming in fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire, Gingrich through his SuperPAC went increasingly negative against Mitt Romney, while simultaneously battling an emerging Rick Santorum for the position of being the conservative non-Mitt.  The results were not pretty, and reminded many voters of why they have reservations of making Gingrich the GOP standard bearer.

Gingrich began his campaign with an epic failure of a rollout, torpedoing the GOP’s national message by by calling Paul Ryan’s entitlement reform plan right-wing social engineering on Meet the Press.  Gingrich then blamed Meet The Press as if he didn’t understand the format of the program he had appeared on multiple times over his career.  The effect was Gingrich was nearly pushed from the race, and the GOP’s most coherent policy response to Health Care Reform hasn’t been heard from since.

This time, when Gingrich hit trouble, he lashed out at Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital and the venture capital industry.  He, along with Rick Perry, adopted the language of the Occupy movement and began to blame Romney for the loss of jobs with the reorganizations at the troubled companies that Bain took over.  Despite their ability to save roughly 4 of 5 companies they invested in, as well as successfully launching others which currently employ over 100,000 people, Gingrich and his SuperPac chose to demonize a record of free market success.

Gingrich’s debate performances are what allowed him to remain in the race, and ultimately become the standard bearer of the non-Mitts in national polls.  Many Republicans now have a visceral need to have Gingrich face Obama to demonstrate the stark difference between Republican values and those of the President.

The problem with this theory, however, is that Gingrich has essentially rendered Republicans’ two main points of attack moot.  Reluctance to nominate Romney because of Massachusetts single payer health care system is balanced by Gingrich’s “right-wing social engineering” remark.  The constant cry of “socialism” lobbed at President Obama is significantly muted by Gingrich’s (and Perry’s) depiction of saving and restructuring failing companies as the acts of vultures.

The results of Gingrich’s attacks have been backlash in both polls and from within a nervous party structure.  He has personally dialed down the criticism of Bain, though his SuperPAC continues to run his ad.  His justification continues to demonstrate a lack of self-awareness, continuing to excuse his ads because of the massive volume of negative attacks against him from Romney.  Even a casual observer of politics should expect constant negatives ads featuring Gingrich, as his past gives much material to work with.   His sales pitch must be that his ideas and direction for the country will overcome mistakes of his past, and not be one of self-centered petulant whining.

Gingrich’s performance Monday night was one of his best, receiving two standing ovations from the crowd of GOP insiders.  His sparring with Juan Williams was vintage Gingrich, rebuking the commentator for suggesting his comments on poverty solutions were overly harsh.  It was the kind of response that would normally be expected if Gingrich was asked to defend Bain’s record, were he not to have a direct interest in arguing the other side for now.

Romney, on the other hand, left an opening for attack in his refusal to release his tax returns.  While doing so will likely open up more attacks based on class warfare, not doing so allows challengers to paint a picture of a candidate with something to hide.

Gingrich will have one more debate performance Thursday night in the final debate before Saturday’s vote in South Carolina.  He has openly staked the viability of his campaign on the state.  While currently trailing in the polls, late shifts from an electorate that still remains someone unsold on Romney could still consolidate behind Gingrich.  For this reason, the Thursday debate matters.

25 comments

  1. Calypso says:

    Gingrich’s latest attacks on Romney and Bain are Hail Mary-type acts of final desperation. It remains to be seen if the voters come down with the ball in the end zone, though I think it will be batted away at the last second and fall to the turf as the final whistle blows.

  2. Bloodhound says:

    Romney’s Super PAC, you know the one that he has no influence over (wink-wink-nod-nod) was thrashing Newt about the head with $5million worth of slander and liable and Newt’s numbers were plummeting to Earth.

    If he didn’t fight back he was finished. As it turns out, he most likely chose the wrong weapon with which to fight, though fight he did!

  3. Three Jack says:

    Last night’s debate was the best by far of the 16 debates over the past few months and Newt was the star. Does he still have a chance? I say yes in spite of the many stumbles he has encountered or self inflicted since the campaign began.

    Santorum stated the obvious about frontrunner Mitt — his ideas are not bold. He represents a continuation of the status quo with maybe a few tweaks here and there…no major reforms, just keep applying bandaids until the next fool comes along. Newt is the definition of boldness therefore he will remain viable as long as he can keep getting free pub via debates.

  4. John Konop says:

    I was very disappointed with Newt on not being straight about Social Security last night. We could of implemented the idea Newt proposed, ( Paul O Neal plan) pre us blowing the bank on 2 wars and passing Medicare drug prescription, but now that the money is gone and with no real long term solution, Newt is selling a fairy tale. And I was further disappointed how Newt and Romney think we can balance the budget without military cuts and solving Medicare drug prescription bill, once again it seemed like many believe in this fairy tale as well last night.

    • Three Jack says:

      How was he not straight John? He offered cuts to offset any shortages caused by allowing some taxpayers to setup personal retirement accounts (can’t believe we willingly accept forced deductions from our pay to be put in a non-interest bearing, non-transferrable, unaccessible bankrupt ‘trust fund’ that actually never was or will be a trust fund). This is what should have happened years ago and Newt was right to bring it up again last night.

      • NoTeabagging says:

        3Jack.
        I’ve thought it odd that we a forced to ‘buy’ a retirement plan and medical insurance with our payroll deductions (aka Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid). Yet know one, for all these many decades, have called it ‘Unconstitutional’ unlike the spin on the recent Health Reform Act.
        Reality check, anyone?

        • elfiii says:

          Then you haven’t been keeping up with current events. There are plenty of us who not only recognize how unconstitutional SS & Medicare are, we have been complaining about it for a long time.

          BTW, the reason SS and Medicare are “Constitutional” is because they are a tax. The programs which they are incapable of funding are what is unconstitutional.

          When the government can force you at gun point to engage in commerce you do not desire to engage in you are no longer a free man. You are a slave to the state. I thought that much was obvious to everyone? Apparently I was mistaken.

          • benevolus says:

            The rest of us decided a long time ago that we would rather make health care available to everyone than have people with communicable diseases walking around. Unfortunately, there are some Luddites out there who have prevented us from implementing a way to pay for it.

      • John Konop says:

        Three Jack,

        The plan was first proposed by Paul O Neal it was one of the reason he joined the Bush 2 administration. The plan would of worked as he pointed out when we had a surplus. As pointed out in his plan we needed a onetime infusion of money to make sure older people got their SS. The Paul O Neal resigned was over the fact Bush 2 blew the piggy bank on 2 wars, tax cuts, Medicare drug bill……………. and he saw how we would our self so for in the red with future liabilities building and no real long term solution.

        Anyone who understands math knows that if we did the plan now we would not have the money to pay for people coming into the system or current recipients. This is NOT EVEN A DEBATE by anyone on any side who understands the math.

        BTW Romney was right we could fade people in via tax breaks, but that would take a combination of massive cuts and tax increases to even achieve this over the next 10 years. As They say it is what it is.

        Guys like you in charge of the party years ago should have been watching the store better!

        • Three Jack says:

          So you’re saying there is only one way to achieve the idea of privatizing SS, the Paul O’Neal plan. That’s the problem with myopic, can’t do attitudes like yours John, roadblocks in the way of needed reform.

          I will go out on a limb here and speculate that there is more than one way to achieve the goal outlined by Newt last night. I know you worship O’Neal as if he is the God of all fiscal responsibility, but I’m guessing there is at least one person out there as smart or smarter than your boy including Newt. Eventually young folks are going to figure out what a scam SS is and there will be no choice but to reform it…hopefully somebody like Newt will be out front on the issue instead of looking for reasons to say ‘we can’t’ like you and your buddy Mitt.

          • John Konop says:

            Three Jack,

            The problem is even with NEWT’S nock of plan, we need about 1 trillion dollars into the system to get young people out, while still having enough money for people in the system. Newt does not deny the issue, he just claims we can find another trillion dollars or so to fund his the idea. Any rational person knows we cannot even considered the idea until we figure out how to deal with the current red ink problem. And since Newt took off the table the 1 trillion in military cuts, we would be 2 trillion further in the red, without even dealing with the 7.2 trillion coming in the next 10 years with Medicare part d Newt supported. If you add this all together with current run rate of debt it would be fool’s gold to think NEWT could pull this off under the current conditions.

            This is the same BS math you fell for as a GOP party leader with Bush 2. Think with your head not your heart.

  5. John Konop says:

    three Jack,

    Are you serious? You were part of the crowd calling me chicken little when I was warning about the problem years ago! Now that you blew the money like a drunken sailor you want this idea over Medicare part d and 2 wars…… LOL.

    • Three Jack says:

      John, this thread is about Newt’s viability, not your one semi-accurate prediction from years ago. I say Newt is not only viable, but probably the best choice of the weak field presented by the GOP this year. He has a detailed plan to reform SS, MediXXX and welfare/handout programs, read it here — http://www.newt.org/news/unleashing-growth-and-innovation-move-beyond-welfare-state

      As for your hero Paul O’Neill (you should learn to spell the guy’s name if you are going to repeatedly tout him as the most brilliant ex-Bush economist), his ‘plan’ presented in a NYTimes Op-Ed is far different than Newt’s — http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/16/opinion/16oneill.html

      Of the two concepts, I find Newt’s to be well thought out, detailed and certainly more viable than O’Neill’s. If you take a few moments to read the highlights from Newt’s plan, you will probably find agreement on many points.

      • John Konop says:

        Three Jack,

        The problem is even with NEWT’S nock off plan, we need about 1 trillion dollars into the system to get young people out, while still having enough money for people in the system. Newt does not deny the issue, he just claims we can find another trillion dollars or so to fund his the idea. Any rational person knows we cannot even considered the idea until we figure out how to deal with the current red ink problem. And since Newt took off the table the 1 trillion in military cuts, we would be 2 trillion further in the red, without even dealing with the 7.2 trillion coming in the next 10 years with Medicare part d Newt supported. If you add this all together with current run rate of debt it would be fool’s gold to think NEWT could pull this off under the current conditions.

        This is the same BS math you fell for as a GOP party leader with Bush 2. Think with your head not your heart.

  6. gcp says:

    Newtie is a big government Republican. He would make no significant budget cuts. He would not cut or restrict Medicaid or Food Stamps. His Medicare program is voluntary. He doesn’t change the Medicare drug program. He does not raise the SS age but he does offer voluntary personal accounts subsidized by taxpayers and of course he won’t cut the military. His voluntary 15% income tax won’t be used by the 47% of filers that currently pay no income tax and won’t affect those that hide income and don’t file at all. If you won’t more huge budget deficits and more government then Newtie is your man.

  7. KD_fiscal conservative says:

    I think Conservative’s last hope is lies with the Repub. Congress with Paul Ryan, Rubio, Rand Paul and a few others, passing tough entitlement reform and budgets. Because there will be no conservative on the ballot in November for president. It is clear(just as it was from day 1) Mitten is going to win the nomination, and likely the presidency. But from his economic “plan”, lack of actual cuts put on the table, and lack of a comprehensive tax reform, and just luke warm support for entitlement reform, Mitten has shown he is NOT a conservative, fiscal or otherwise. The only thing “conservative” about his is he wants to INCREASE military spending MORE then it is already scheduled to increase.(which, I guess, these days, is considered ‘conservative’).

    I am expecting a failed presidency from Romney. There will likely be war with Iran, trade war with China, increased (or about the same) spending levels as the status quo. And all of the hyper-partisan GOP’er will tell us why Romney is SOOOOO much better than what *could* have happened with Obama. Mean while, the economy will get slightly better, we will still be getting a huge amount of oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, and revenues to the gov’t will go down. The deficit will stay about the same or get worse, and the dollar will get weaker.

    Come back and read this post in 4-5 years, my predictions(which is really just common sense) are rarely wrong.

    • John Konop says:

      fiscal,

      I agree with you in general. But the China issue has more twist and turns. Bottom line China cannot afford to have currency crash. Not only are they holding a lot of our money, but they also would get paid back on our loans on the cheap. Finally they are also having major disruption with labor being abused. They having records threatening suicide over the conditions, pay and hours. That is why it is time for a win/win trade deal with China, because long term we both will sink if we do not fix the problem.

  8. saltycracker says:

    What part of Newt’s Bain attack leads one to believe he would restructure and downsize government ?

    It’ll be over after Florida and Romney needs to pick someone like Rubio to get ‘er done.
    Romney might not have a magic pill but it contrasts with Obama’s poison pill.

  9. Engineer says:

    Newt is a big government neocon that isn’t even on the ballot in all the states. In my opinion, he isn’t viable.

  10. Newt, like Santorum is only viable as a useful tool to try to keep the only true Anti-Romney out of the top two spot… Hutsman proved worthless at that task in NH, so he’s gone.

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