Although Mitt Romney emerged victorious in the winner-take-all Florida primary, a troubling statistic for his campaign (and the GOP, should he get the nomination) is that he still failed to win the Tea Party vote in the state. It seems that people’s dissatisfaction with Romney stems from the proclaimed front runner’s monotony.
The overused and irrelevant complaint, “Mitt has trouble connecting with voters,” is unfortunately, costing him. Now the low-awareness and easily bored voters are demanding a more dynamic candidate without a Massachusetts (liberal) resume. Their most favored alternative seems to be Newt Gingrich, who, despite losing the Sunshine State, has always proven to work best given the worst odds.
This year may start out with a touch of irony if Reagan-nostalgic conservatives decline a charming, successful governor from a liberal state in favor of an odd little academic with two ex-wives. But Gingrich has been dismissed as such before, and he has shocked his critics every time. He has done so twice already on the campaign trail.
First, he became a serious contender for the presidency during a chaotic campaign in which virtually all of his senior staff resigned. Second, he had the nerve to tell the governor of Texas and a former senator to drop out of the race and give him their support. The governor apparently listened.
Does that not seem a little odd? Two experienced and unquestionably conservative politicians with benign personal lives are losing to Gingrich in a popularity contest among Republicans. Then again, everything about the former speaker of the House seems enigmatic.
He is clearly brilliant, well versed in history, confident (that may be putting it mildly) and pragmatic. However, Gingrich is also arrogant (see the paragraph above), unlikeable (most of his peers despise him) and scheming. He is like a modern day Henry Kissinger without the Cambodia ordeal — though a presidency may grant him a similar controversy.
The surest sign of Gingrich’s drive is his success today. This is a man who resigned as speaker, has a controversial personal life, was the subject of a congressional ethics investigation and holds ideas that are inspired by, and may have inspired, science fiction novels. And this man may be the Republican nomination for the highest executive office in the United States.
Gingrich’s campaign tactics have revealed how unique he is as a politician. His ambitions were harmed quickly by a staff exodus to Tim Pawlenty’s campaign (they have to be regretting that decision), but he remained friendly to his competitors at the debates and on the campaign trail. He then surged after Herman Cain’s collapse and became more aggressive as all of the campaigns got nastier.
Now, Gingrich and Romney are engaged in a vicious back and forth. All candidates tend to become more aggressive when every vote matters; Gingrich is unique in that throughout the campaign, he probably hasn’t ever seriously listened to consultants, while all his rivals have — especially Romney. Gingrich, it seems, only listens to
I just can’t see any political consultant comfortably condoning Gingrich’s speeches about dinosaurs, building a lunar base amid a recession or criticizing debate moderators instead of his opponents.
Gingrich’s campaign has continued to gain momentum. He won the South Carolina primary and has received many more endorsements after his victory. He has gained the support of former rival Rick Perry, several state-office holders in Florida and the supposedly coveted endorsements of Sarah Palin, Chuck Norris and Cain. There has to be a good joke involving Cain’s sexual harassment allegations and Gingrich’s two ex-wives.
The ultimate question and concern for Republicans is, if Romney fails to galvanize the base, how would Gingrich fare in the general election against President Barack Obama. I don’t think he would do well. Gingrich has already stated that if he secures the Republican nomination, he will immediately challenge the president to three Lincoln-Douglass style debates. That almost certainly won’t happen — I don’t know why would Obama agree to such a thing. And while Gingrich is a great debater, everyone knows the president is better.
Also, it will be hard to contrast the conservative from the liberal when one advocates more spending on infrastructure while the other pledges to build a moon base. President Obama will win, however, because of personal factors. It will be hard for Gingrich to court the evangelical vote, which can be crucial, with three marriages while the president has only one.
That may, however, only be a small hindrance compared to Gingrich’s major liability: his unpredictability. The supporters of President Obama, Sen. Rick Santorum, Congressman Ron Paul and Gov. Romney know what will happen if their candidate wins.
Gingrich fans can’t say the same. He had one of the most turbulent speakerships in American history and has had a frantic campaign. The man himself is simply odd — his name is Newt.
And if voters have to choose between Obama’s overall stability and predictability, as well as Gingrich’s dynamic nature, even a few Republicans will likely vote for four more years of the same.