Friday, January 06, 2012

Newt the Inevitable

, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.Image via WikipediaYes, the Senator from United Health Services is still "surging" [hat tip -- Politico]. Rick Santorum raised $2 million in the two days following his Iowa caucus victory (and it was a victory, even if he came up a few votes shorter than the presumptive GOP front-runner who's been relentlessly pursuing the presidency for six years now). He's on the hustings in New Hampshire, launching TV ad buys and direct mail in South Carolina, doubling down on the hardcore social conservative message that endeared him to Catholic and evangelical Christian voters in Iowa, even at college events he committed to when nobody gave him a snowball's chance in hell, where it doesn't play well.

But it's all for nought. He's unelectable, and even his biggest fans know it. Independents can't stomach his Torquemada approach to social issues, and even the most hardened "values voters" will blanch as the record of his K Street hijinks continues to roll out.

The only real impact the "Santorum surge" will have on this race is hastening the doom of Mitt Romney, who at this point looks set to leave South Carolina with an 0-for-3 record of convincing victories, possibly even dipping below 40% in New Hampshire, where he should have had a shot at an outright majority.

English: Newt GingrichImage via Wikipedia
Enter Newt Gingrich.

What's that you say? Gingrich hasn't won anything so far either? But no one expected him to, my dear. And yet he hangs on like a bulldog, absorbing every blow without a blink and tearing relentlessly at Romney's bleeding flanks as the contest lurches south toward his lifelong stomping grounds.

Oh, yes, he's an ethics-challenged, revolving door, ward-heeling grifter too. But we've known that for a long time, and we're used to it -- it's just now coming out on Santorum, who still possesses a reputation of moral rectitude subject to shattering with recitations of his venality. Not only is Gingrich's record not a big deal any more -- rivers under the bridge, so to speak -- it may even be a strength.

Accompany me on a short journey to the days of yesteryear, when the "failed governor of a small southern state" got himself elected President -- twice! -- in the face of morals accusations that made him out to be little short of a modern-day Caligula. Remember that guy? The one who laughed off Gennifer Flowers and went with "it's the economy, stupid?"

You may remember another guy, too. A guy who worked his way up from backbencher to House Minority Whip by "nationalizing" his reputation as a partisan fighter, and who, two years after that "failed governor's" first presidential victory, honchoed a successful "national campaign" to garner the GOP its first House majority in 40 years (he's the only GOP contender who can plausibly claim to have run a successful national campaign). A guy who hasn't lost an election since 1976. Who walked out of Congress on his own after a bout of backstabbing by his co-partisans ("I'm willing to lead but I'm not willing to preside over people who are cannibals") instead of being sent home by his state's voters like Rick Santorum was in 2006.

Gingrich is teflon. He's immunized. Everyone already knows he's a sonofabitch. That frees him to relentlessly focus on making himself our sonofabitch.

So far, the GOP nomination race has been a desultory bar fight. Now it's developing into a serious boxing match, and Gingrich is the only man in the ring who can absorb body blows early, then turn around and keep delivering them as the thing drags on, until he's the only one left standing.

The polls aren't showing that yet, but they will. Once Romney's been dispatched, Gingrich runs the GOP primary table. You can write it down.
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