At the Republican convention of 2008, John McCain was introduced by the first major party female candidate for Vice President in 24 years, and the first in the Republican Party. McCain sent a signal to PUMA supporters of Hillary Clinton by his VP choice and more subtly with his orange tie. He was running a general election campaign since he won the primaries and tried to be inclusive of independents and disaffected Democrats.
In 2010, McCain ran for another Senate term in Arizona. His Tea Party opponent for the primary forced him to run as a conservative. He sought out the coveted endorsement of his former running mate. He ditched his former open borders stance and demanded Obama “complete the dang fence.” He won that election.
McCain’s 2008 adversary Mitt Romney is running again this time. He was hailed as the conservative alternative to McCain back then. Huckabee turned out to be the social conservative choice and he used that mantle to steer votes to McCain. Now, Romney is some sort of centrist. He’s the Democrats’ favorite Republican, except for Jon Huntsman’s vanity campaign. McCain tried that crap in 2008 because the media loved him in 2000 when he ran against George W. Bush. McCain lost that race, too.
I understand the logic here. You take a candidate with an unclear stance, throw a bunch of Wall Street money at him, run a negative primary campaign and stay away from one-on-one interviews. It worked for Obama. The problem is that it doesn’t really work for Republicans. Conservative Republicans come off as evil, but mostly to people who won’t vote for them anyway. Moderate Republicans come off as creepy. Look at Nixon. Did George H. W. Bush lose his election because of an economic slump or because he was the first Republican president to break the Grover Norquist pledge? If people really voted for Perot’s deficit stance, Bush was reducing it by raising taxes.
Newt Gingrich has enough staying power at this point to make a strong showing in a number of primaries. We already know his crazy views, unlike the surprise of Michele Bachmann. He’s far more articulate than Rick Perry and can remember the long list of government programs he wants to abolish. He won’t drop out like Cain for leaked scandals. What can Gingrich’s wife say to him? She used to be the mistress. Ron Paul may be more Tea Party then Newt, but his middling stance on running third-party has ended his chances.
Then there’s the moderate / independent / Democratic vote. This is a referendum on Barack Obama. If Newt goes negative against Obama, and will he ever, he’s got a good lock on that vote. Clinton supporters may despise him, but that will just shore him up with conservatives reminded that Newt stuck it to Bubba every chance he got.
Political calculus tends to dictate that the winner of the primaries will be the one who pisses off his challengers the least. The few Republicans who have dropped out have endorsed Romney. If the tide turns and Gingrich’s strategy of not attacking opponents leads to endorsements, Romney could find himself in big trouble.
Then again, Newt could screw up big and lose all his current support. It’s pretty much even money on him doing that.