A cat is said to have nine lives. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich may indeed have a feline pedigree. Closing polls in preparation for the vote in the South Carolina primary for the republican nomination for the U.S. presidency suggest a lead in the double digits for Gingrich in a bell weather state that has unfailingly predicted the republican nominee over the years with their primary’s winner. The 68 year old Gingrich has managed to become the establishment’s worst nightmare in his apparent teflon coating to their unceasing denigration of his persona and candidacy. The essential summation of their argument, whether it be the national media, Mitt Romney, the National Review editorial board, the republican party establishment, or essentially anyone who has ever known him well, is “Come on, Newt! Don’t you get it? Nobody likes you!”
Well, apparently some people out there like Newt. Gingrich has managed to amazingly position himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, after every other conceivable alternative so obviously better suited for the mantle has fallen away. Gingrich’s path to supremacy has been patterned after your local county fair sponsored demolition derby – take your tired old car out there and rear end everyone else’s car until you are the last man standing. Even if your car barely moves, as long as its the last one running, you win. Gingrich was first viewed last summer as an out of touch has been with no chance, starting with the incomprehensibly stupid attack on Paul Ryan, the only politician in recent memory to articulate a rational plan to save us from catastrophic deficit doom. Noting the profound mistake of unserious thinking in an era of a very serious electorate, Gingrich bided his time and somehow managed to cling to a political life raft long enough to get to the debate season of last fall. The debates performed in repetitive fashion showed that being able to formulate a cohesive thought in a reproducible fashion managed to elevate him above half the pretenders in the field. Conservatives took notice, not of his conservatism, but rather his relative eloquence, and found themselves determined to avoid the perpetual quandary of nominating conservatives who are incapable of enunciating a coherent defense of conservatism.
Suddenly Gingrich’s debating star began to rise with a parallel rise in the polls, and with it, the re-focus on all his foibles. And oh, those foibles! The taking of money from Fanny and Freddy, the string of incoherent ideas ping ponging from libertarianism to socialist thought, the mine field personal life, the continuing attacks on free market capitalism – all packaged in one candidate. The focus on the foibles made voters shake themselves dry of their quick dip in the waters of Newt, and he proved an also ran consecutively in both Iowa and New Hampshire, finishing behind a candidate who believes the United States should build a surrounding moat and kiss the rest of the world goodbye. One would have thought that would be enough to have, as the brilliant Eliza Doolittle once stated so insightfully, ” dun ’em in”.
In little more than a week, all that has changed. Governor Perry has dropped out and endorsed Newt, Congressman Ron Paul keeps talking, which eliminates any chance of him being elected, and Rick Santorum is, well, Rick Santorum. For all the conservatives, constitutionalists, tea party advocates, limited government crusaders, return to standards warriors, and Ryan, Christie, Jindal, and Palin dreamers, the last car in the way of the statist candidate Romney is — newt.
Now that didn’t exactly work out quite like we were hoping, did it? The crusading hero to finally lead us out of this hole we’ve dug ourselves is this guy? It boggles the mind. At least it is a recognition that in this time of soundbites, tweets, and collusional press, that the strains of democracy can still push and pull the system to propel candidates to face up to the chaos and try to find a winning message. The electoral process was designed to have candidates fine tune their message in response to the voters across the country, not walk away with the prize before the first ballot was struck. This could take awhile, and to the candidates’ and nation’s benefit. Romney versus Gingrich. Hmmm. Not exactly Frazier – Ali but compared to the alternative…. a nation shudders.