I had a dream last night. There was a primary somewhere and Newt Gingrich was closing in on the magic number of delegates needed to win the GOP nomination when suddenly they raised the number. I don’t know what it means but it may be prophetic.
I think last night was a game-changer. Ever since Newt first surged into the lead back in November he has been the target of a smear campaign coming from the Romney campaign and the GOP establishment. In Newt’s case most of the smears are true, but such an all-out attack on a Republican by other Republicans is unheard of in modern history.
Newt withstood the attacks and came back to win a decisive victory in a state that was not a natural stronghold. Most of the punditocracy is ignoring the 500 lb gorilla in the room – the GOP voters don’t want Mitt Romney. Just one week ago the experts were speculating that Mitt would run the table and essentially close the race with a win in South Carolina.
Then Newtmentum happened.
There are two main keys to Newtmentum. The first is Not-Romney. Approximately 25% of the GOP (including the establishment) supports Mitt Romney. The other 75% want someone else. Part of it is that “Mormon” thing. I was telling people four years ago (when Mitt was considered by some to be a frontrunner) that there was no way the fundiegelicals were going to vote for a Mormon.
Anti-Mormon bigotry still exists in this country, and not just on the evangelical right – there are lots of lefties that hate ’em too. I don’t want to discuss the reasons for AMB in this post, but it’s real. Last night’s exit polls showed that the people who said religious beliefs were very important to them voted overwhelmingly for Gingrich.
But that’s not the only reason the right-wing doesn’t want Romney. More than anything the opposition is ideological. They consider Mitt to be a RINO – Republican In Name Only. His record and statements from his days in Massachusetts are anathema to conservatives. And then there’s that Romneycare thing.
Last but not least, Mitt has baggage – money bags. This might seem a little counterintuitive because of the long-standing connection between the Republican party and big business, but the rank and file GOP is almost as leery of the 1%ers as the OWS crowd. That is the reason that the filthy rich who jump into politics have rarely been successful. And don’t forget – it was the House GOP that opposed the TARP bailouts.
Each of Mitt’s strengths is a double-edged sword. He is a successful businessman/he got rich as an investment banker. He has experience as a governor/he was elected in a blue state where he ran and governed as a moderate-to-liberal. He is devoutly religious/he’s a Mormon.
But being Not-Romney is only one of the keys to Newtmentum.
There is a lot of anger out there these days. That’s not surprising considering the economy. Millions of people are hurting. Millions more that aren’t hurting are scared they will be soon. Most of the anger is still unchanneled.
Anger was the key to the early success of OWS, but then they sacrificed their credibility when they took a hard left turn into Smelly Hippieland. Anger is a powerful emotion but it’s hard to successfully channel it into political action. The same anger that fires up the mob scares away the masses.
One of the things that made Ronald Reagan successful was his ability to mix anger and optimism. It might have been all bullshit but it worked. Newt Gingrich is a Reagan acolyte. Like Howard Beale he articulates the popular rage, but then he shifts gears and starts talking about a utopian future.
Watch this clip from the first South Carolina debate earlier this week:
Gingrich taps into anger:
Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any President in American history. I know among the politically correct you are not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable. Second, you are the one who earlier raised the key point. The area that ought to be I-73 was called by Barack Obama “a corridor of shame” because of unemployment. Has it improved in three years? No. They haven’t built a road, they haven’t helped the people, they haven’t done anything.
Then he turns into a motivational speaker:
One last thing…I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their Creator with the right to pursue happiness, and if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.
When he was finished you can barely hear Bret Baier because of the standing ovation from the crowd.
The GOP voters don’t give a shit about “electability,” they want a WINNER. They know it’s gonna be ugly, and they want a political street fighter to lead them. Newt is a counter-puncher. He knows how to turn “Meet the Press” into “Beat the Press.” Just ask John King – he found out the hard way what “ripped him new one” means.
The GOP establishment isn’t running for the lifeboats . . . yet. But if Mitt can’t stop Newtmentum soon they are going to start thinking about tossing Mitt overboard and finding a new captain.
As for electability, it’s a perverse argument that goes “We can’t vote for our first choice because he/she can’t win in the general election so we have to vote for someone we don’t want.”
Mitt doesn’t generate enthusiasm. He’s not the one you want, he’s the one you settle for (or hold your nose and vote for). He might attract more votes from independents, but the question is how many members of the base will stay home on election day because they are too depressed to vote?
Don’t underestimate the Newtster. There are a lot of people on both sides who assume that Gingrich can’t possibly win in November. As George W. Bush and Barack Obama have proven, any moron can become president.
This is not an endorsement of Newt Gingrich. I will not vote for Newt. I despise him. He is one of the few people who would make me consider voting for Obama. But I’m not going to make the mistake of assuming everyone out there agrees with me.
Assuming that Newt won the GOP nomination and did not implode during the general campaign, he could count on a floor of support around 45 percent. Barack Obama could count on about the same. It’s those other 10% that are gonna make the difference.
Both have high negatives. Newt’s got better political skills, but Obama will have more money. The media will back Obama, but they rank below lawyers and crackheads in respectability.
There is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. Newt has only won one primary. So has Mitt. (Santorum won Iowa.) Stay tuned for further developments.
I want to address some comments I have seen here and elsewhere regarding evangelicals who support Newt Gingrich. The gist of these comments is that it is somehow hypocritical for devout Christians to support a notorious sinner. They think Christians should only support someone who has led a sin-free life. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the religion.
There is probably no group in this country more misunderstood and maligned than religious fundamentalists. That’s partially their own fault. They tend to be insular and paranoid, and they have more than their fair share of nutjobs and weirdos. Their monomaniacal fixation on abortion and gay marriage is definitely off-putting, to say the least.
Evangelicals are very familiar with sin. In a perverse way they brag about it. While it’s all good to live the pure life, special status goes to those who needed forgiveness the most.
I’m not talking about murderers and child molesters. But stories of alcohol, drugs and sexual debauchery are common when they are witnessing to each other. Of course this is all in the past tense – they say they have now been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.
Outsiders and escapees with issues imagine the evangelical world as filled with hatred and puritanical intolerance of sinners. But as we saw with Bristol Palin that view is not accurate.
As long as no recent dirt is uncovered on Newt showing he is still sinning, evangelicals will give him the benefit of the doubt about the genuineness of his redemption. And they don’t care what you think.