Newt vs. The Establishment
Well, you knew it was coming, right? Establishment Republicans, as I’ve pointed out before, are determined that Mitt Romney will be the party’s Presidential nominee this November and will brook no compromise on the matter. Since last summer, I fully expected the party would do it’s best to eliminate anyone who dared get in the way of that result. After rising in the polls in early December, Newt Gingrich faced a potent barrage of negative coverage that dropped him to fourth place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Then came the drubbing Gingrich delivered Romney in South Carolina and a 31 point swing in Florida polling, along with the two men virtually tying in national polls.
Cue the extensive establishment machinery. This morning, it seems every Republican-leaning pundit opened up on Gingrich in what seems suspiciously like a coordinated broadside aimed at derailing his campaign. Among the articles that stood out:
Ann Coulter, writing on her blog:
“To talk with Gingrich supporters is to enter a world where words have no meaning. They denounce Mitt Romney as a candidate being pushed on them by “the Establishment” — with “the Establishment” defined as anyone who supports Romney or doesn’t support Newt…
“This is the sort of circular reasoning one normally associates with Democrats, people whom small-town pharmacists refer to as “drug seekers” and Ron Paul supporters.
Romney is the most electable candidate not only because it will be nearly impossible for the media to demonize this self-made Mormon square, devoted to his wife and church, but precisely because he is the most conservative candidate.”
Former Senator and failed Presidential candidate Bob Dole:
“In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it, and I’m not certain he knew either.”
Rich Lowry, in an article damningly entitled “Gingrich: The Republican Clinton“:
“Newt is the Republican Clinton — shameless, needy, hopelessly egotistical. The two former adversaries and tentative partners have largely the same set of faults and talents. They are self-indulgent, prone to disregard rules inconvenient to them, and consumed by ambition. They are glib, knowledgeable, and imaginative. They are baby boomers who hadn’t fully grown up even when they occupied two of the most powerful offices in the land.”
In a similarly themed article in The American Spectator, Emmett Tyrell’s writing is nearly syllable-for-syllable:
“Newt and Bill are, of course, 1960s generation narcissists, and they share the same problems: waywardness and deviancy. Newt, like Bill, has a proclivity for girl hopping. It is not as egregious as Bill’s, but then Newt is not as drop-dead beautiful. His public record is already besmeared with tawdry divorces, and there are private encounters with the fair sex that doubtless will come out. If I have heard of some, you can be sure the Democrats have heard of more. Nancy Pelosi’s intimations are timely.”
Perhaps no author sums up the Establishment’s “Fear of Newt” better than Eliot Abrams. Abrams, in decrying Newt’s penchant for publicly disagreeing with policies he views as flawed:
“Presidents should not get automatic support, not even from members of their own party, but they have a right to that support when they are under a vicious partisan assault.”
Comparing Gingrich supporters to Ron Paul supporters and Democrats is ignoring the fact that unlike either of the latter, Gingrich’s support has waxed and waned weekly. You can attach many adjectives to Newt’s supporters, but “fanatical” would be the most disingenuous. Of course, anyone willing to call Mitt Romney “the most conservative candidate” has already escaped the bounds of reality. The remaining establishment attacks seem to focus on two themes.
The first is that Newt is the ultimate RINO, willing to abandon the party in order to further his own views. This probably is an accurate depiction, but not much of an attack. Abrams’ attack line is viewed by most Americans as a positive – we prefer our Representatives to vote their conscience and not the party line. In a year when the electorate is largely disgusted with the way the party establishment has failed, attacking a candidate for preferring to vest in his own beliefs over orthodoxy is probably not a smart play. The base wants a candidate who’s willing to shake things up a bit – that certainly isn’t Romney. It could be Ron Paul, but by pointing out that Gingrich has a history of breaking with party orthodoxy the establishment allows him to claim that mantle.
The second is that Gingrich is flawed in character; volatile in nature and unable to lead. This line of attack is similar to the one employed in December with success. The problem is that line of attack isn’t new. Voters are well acquainted with Gingrich’s peccadilloes from the 90’s. If they’re as willing to overlook them in Florida as they were in South Carolina, the establishment is likely out of bullets.
This is just a sampling of the pile-on that seems to be taking place. Fear is in the establishment air, understandably so. Gingrich already leads in delegates. Florida is the first “winner-take-all” primary; adding another 50 delegates to his total guarantees that Romney can’t get the lead in the delegate count until March. What the establishment still hopes to sell the party – that Romney is the only electable candidate – would be forever gone as an argument. Because of that, fully expect party leaders to turn up the heat even further on Gingrich until January 31. They can’t risk having a “rogue” candidate win.