Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why I Keep Telling You to Expect Newt


English: Newt Gingrich at a political conferen...Image via Wikipedia
We're three days and change from learning the results of the 2012 South Carolina Republican presidential primary.

As I write this, Texas governor Rick Perry is taking his final bow, withdrawing from the campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich.

Yesterday, Sarah Palin came as close as she's probably going to get to endorsing a candidate until the outcome is absolutely certain: "If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I'd vote for Newt ..."

Why do I keep pointing to Gingrich as the obvious GOP nominee? It's certainly not because I prefer him or support him. Even if I voted, and even if I voted Republican, I wouldn't vote for Newt.

But, here's the thing: This is a street fight, and Gingrich is a street fightin' man. There's no attack he won't use if he thinks it will work, and there's no blow he can't absorb standing up. That's how he's going to beat Romney, and that's how he's going to try to beat Obama.

Mitt Romney is the kind of candidate who does quite well, as long as he's floating forward on a carefully crafted narrative of "inevitability." He sounds plausible to everyone, as long as the problems of governance are presented as simple matters of managerial tweaking. But he falls right to pieces when it comes time to take the gloves off and throw down.

Ron Paul is certainly a fighter. If the GOP -- Establishment and rank-and-file alike -- hadn't let themselves get so entrenched and besieged in their crackpipe post-9/11 foreign policy errors, he'd stand a chance. Unfortunately, mistakes of that size and scope tend to self-reinforce; they're so big, ugly and stupid that people can't bring themselves to admit they were mistakes at all. And most of them just won't support a candidate who's urging them to get their heads out of their asses instead of patting them on the back and telling them they're smart.

That leaves Rick Santorum, whose positions on virtually everything are simply too extremely opposed to virtually every majority voting constituency for him to be elected president, and who failed of re-election to the US Senate in 2006 with less than 42% of the Pennsylvania vote; and Newt, who hasn't lost an election since the mid-1970s.

I'm confident in my prediction that Gingrich will at least de facto tie, and probably beat, Romney on Saturday in South Carolina.

Furthermore, I think that he will win, and probably comfortably, in Florida on the 31st. Yes, he's behind Romney in Florida right now, but South Carolina will give him momentum, and he will spend 10 days hammering Romney in ways that maximize the Latino vote. Remember, now that Perry's out, Gingrich is the GOP's voice of nominal sanity on immigration.

If he can maul Romney in Florida and South Carolina, he will be running the table by Super Tuesday.

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