Is Newt The Comeback Kid?

Bookmark and Share    Newt was focused and seemed to be resonating with the SC Republicans at the last debate. He made Santorum and Perry seem like lesser alternatives for the conservative vote. He’ll have to convince people finally in the debate on Thursday that he is the single conservative candidate to rally around if he hopes to win in South Carolina and hope to stop the Romney coronation. If anyone can do it, it is Newt Gingrich. At the same time, Newt is also the man who will have the hardest time doing it.

His attacks on Romney’s time at Bain were stupid and he now knows it. Many who found his attacks reckless turned to Santorum. They could be wooed back since Santorum was not their first choice and he is a fairly weak candidate. To get them back, Newt has been explaining his attacks and distancing himself from the SuperPAC that launched the worst of them. He doesn’t have much time to heal the wounds, but is making excellent progress. Whether he can pull it off this week without making another mistake remains to be seen. If he can pull it off anywhere, it would be easiest in South Carolina where he has many past supporters.

A victory for Newt in South Carolina can come in two ways: he can beat Romney or he can be at least 10 points ahead of Santorum. With either outcome, he can campaign on the ‘strongest conservative’ strategy fairly successfully and probably win back all those who lost confidence in him outside South Carolina. However if he stays tangled up with Santorum, the two of them will have to get in a room and decide who is going to drop out in order to unite the conservative vote before it is too late to make a difference.

But, let’s say that Gingrich pulls off the win in South Carolina by at least distancing himself from Santorum and Perry. Perry will, if he has any sense for his political future, drop out of the race so as not to split the conservative vote. Santorum should do the same, but would probably try to make one last stand in Florida hoping that Newt would only be strong in SC. All that aside, the question remains: would Newt uniting the conservatives be a good thing?

We have learned that the new Newt is just the old Newt with a couple dozen extra pounds. He is still mercurial and gets sucked into conflicts without seeing the bigger picture. The Bain mistake will likely not be his last and conservatives could find themselves without a candidate if he implodes later in the race. If he manages to hold it together and win the nomination, he is still a hard candidate to sell to the all-important independent voters. No one can question his debate skills, but if he can spin out of control so easily under the pressure of Romney’s attacks it certainly raises doubts that he will be able to battle the vicious lie machine called the Obama campaign.

Can Newt be the Comeback Kid? Would the party benefit if he were? I think he will succeed in being the final conservative standing and challenge Romney. I’d give him a 30% chance of winning the nomination if he pulls that off. I’d then give him a 25% of winning the Presidency if he were the nominee. I, and pretty much every Republican, would end up voting for him because of our intense desire to see Obama out of office. Yet, independents are fickle and can be bought by slick ads and accusations – especially with a complicit media helping at every turn. Newt would only need to make one mistake and he would be beaten over the head with it constantly. While I am entirely convinced he would mop the floor with Obama in a debate, I doubt Obama will give him the opportunity. Sure, Newt says he’s just hound Obama like Lincoln after Douglas. That would work if the media weren’t in the bag for Obama and would report Newt fairly. Since that is not the case, Newt would make a lot of good points no one he needs to reach would hear.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Newt is great. I’d love to see him force Santorum and Perry out of the race and get this nomination process focused between the three wings of the party with one candidate each. I think that the party needs that debate and to pick a direction on issues rather than personal bickering. I just don’t think Newt can pull off the final victory due to the mistakes he’s already made and the likelihood that he’ll make more when the pressure really comes on. In his defense, I think Santorum and Perry stand even less of a chance and if anyone can pull it off for the conservatives – it is Newt.

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