Can Gingrich Make It to the Nomination?

Newt Gingrich is surging on the basis of his strong debate performances and his turn in the box.  But his momentum is different from some other candidates who have found themselves in this enviable position.  First, Newt is a seasoned campaigner with a long history in government.  Second, he has a strong intellect and can synthesize complex issues for the electorate.  And finally, he is not Mitt Romney.

So why is the anybody-but-Mitt conservative base so enamored with Newt and so antagonistic to Romney?  Surely Newt Gingrich represents Washington insiders like no other candidate.  Certainly his cantankerous and checkered past is obvious for anyone who wishes to look at the record.  And how is it that social conservatives and others deem Mitt Romney's character a problem when Newt Gingrich has enough baggage to fill a two-hundred-pound rucksack?

The answer may lie in a bifurcated Republican party.  Conservatives, including me, are fond of pointing out that the liberal left is a consortium of African-Americans and Hispanics, the socially liberal, the Hollywood-types, environmentalists, and the elite intelligentsia of the university crowd.  However, when looking at the conservative movement, we don't see the number of sub-groups making up that movement, but more of a center-right and far-right coalition.

Within these two groups, there is a trend of thought that suggests that the moderate Republicans are detrimental to the party and that only purists can fully represent the conservative movement.  While I tend towards social conservatism, I am pragmatic about the current political environment in which we find ourselves.  This is not to suggest that I wouldn't prefer to see a strong and charismatic conservative leading the party and the country; it's just that the nation won't agree with me or those who embrace that very candidate.  It is nearly thirty-two years after Reagan's revolution, and we find that the nation is a very different place.

But what explains the fact that Romney, a seemingly competent if technocratic leader, is so opposed by many in the conservative movement?  And what if, under the new rules for proportional delegates being awarded to candidates through April, we find ourselves in May with no real winner?  This last point is critical to the thesis.  The longer Newt stays in play, the more likely "bad Newt" may show his face.  Romney doesn't need to come out of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina with compelling wins, nor does any other candidate.  This process of apportionment was a substantial rules change and allows even the nominal candidates to stay in the race.

So will Mitt Romney eventually win over the anybody-but-Mitt crowd?  Perhaps, but it's unlikely to happen before May.  Over time, his experience, campaign organization, and donations will begin to grind away at Newt Gingrich.  However, this trajectory could rapidly change by March if Gingrich's armada of newly minted supporters begins to examine his record.  The enthusiasm he now enjoys will begin to ebb as people begin to reflect on his history and current events.  That is not to say that Gingrich will be subdued by his own ego.  It's just that so many know him from so many years and carry resentment toward him that few resources will be offered to help him succeed.  His is a candidacy familiar to many in Congress.  In fact, a tally of congressional endorsements indicates that Gingrich gets the support of six of his congressional colleagues versus the forty-four enjoyed by Romney.

So how does this all play out in January?  First, Newt's rise will enable him to enjoy a strong showing in the early states.  Mitt Romney will need to play a stronger hand if he is to stop Gingrich's rise to the top.  Secondly, the electorate will begin to coalesce around the two candidates through the caucus and primaries during those first few weeks of the new year.  However, the big if for Newt is whether or not he can translate his grassroots enthusiasm and the frontrunner status into donations and support from the establishment.  Or does his two-hundred-pound rucksack begin to weigh on his campaign?  In all likelihood, it's a little bit of both.  Newt blows hot and cold, and his temperament is well known in Washington along with his personal foibles.  While Newt has gained steam after nearly obliterating his campaign earlier in the year, it is far from clear whether he can maintain the discipline to finally contend for the presidency.

However, as the electorate begins to look at both campaigns more clearly and the real campaigning begins toward Super Tuesday, the Newt Gingrich gap with Mitt Romney will begin to close.  This is not to say that Romney can play a waiting game.  He must begin to show the bolder stroke and counter the effervescent mind of Gingrich.  And while Romney can rely on his money, organization, and rules changes in the early part of the primary season, he must begin to craft a reason for voters to overcome the anybody-but=Mitt problem which faces his candidacy.  He can and will respond to changing conditions, as he has demonstrated throughout this campaign season.

On the other hand, the Democrats and the mainstream media would love to run against Gingrich.  They understand Newt's history and will use it with devastating effectiveness.  In this context, Romney has the lighter load to carry, and he can and will continue the marathon that is the presidential election.  Newt's rucksack, on the other hand, would tire even the fittest candidate.  So as we approach 2012, the electorate, which has seen its favorites come and go, will have to decide.  In the end, it will come down to anybody but Obama!

Mark Skoda is a syndicated conservative talk show host, blogger, and founder of the Memphis TEA Party.  He is also president of MPS Broadcasting.  He can be contacted at mark@markskoda.com.

Newt Gingrich is surging on the basis of his strong debate performances and his turn in the box.  But his momentum is different from some other candidates who have found themselves in this enviable position.  First, Newt is a seasoned campaigner with a long history in government.  Second, he has a strong intellect and can synthesize complex issues for the electorate.  And finally, he is not Mitt Romney.

So why is the anybody-but-Mitt conservative base so enamored with Newt and so antagonistic to Romney?  Surely Newt Gingrich represents Washington insiders like no other candidate.  Certainly his cantankerous and checkered past is obvious for anyone who wishes to look at the record.  And how is it that social conservatives and others deem Mitt Romney's character a problem when Newt Gingrich has enough baggage to fill a two-hundred-pound rucksack?

The answer may lie in a bifurcated Republican party.  Conservatives, including me, are fond of pointing out that the liberal left is a consortium of African-Americans and Hispanics, the socially liberal, the Hollywood-types, environmentalists, and the elite intelligentsia of the university crowd.  However, when looking at the conservative movement, we don't see the number of sub-groups making up that movement, but more of a center-right and far-right coalition.

Within these two groups, there is a trend of thought that suggests that the moderate Republicans are detrimental to the party and that only purists can fully represent the conservative movement.  While I tend towards social conservatism, I am pragmatic about the current political environment in which we find ourselves.  This is not to suggest that I wouldn't prefer to see a strong and charismatic conservative leading the party and the country; it's just that the nation won't agree with me or those who embrace that very candidate.  It is nearly thirty-two years after Reagan's revolution, and we find that the nation is a very different place.

But what explains the fact that Romney, a seemingly competent if technocratic leader, is so opposed by many in the conservative movement?  And what if, under the new rules for proportional delegates being awarded to candidates through April, we find ourselves in May with no real winner?  This last point is critical to the thesis.  The longer Newt stays in play, the more likely "bad Newt" may show his face.  Romney doesn't need to come out of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina with compelling wins, nor does any other candidate.  This process of apportionment was a substantial rules change and allows even the nominal candidates to stay in the race.

So will Mitt Romney eventually win over the anybody-but-Mitt crowd?  Perhaps, but it's unlikely to happen before May.  Over time, his experience, campaign organization, and donations will begin to grind away at Newt Gingrich.  However, this trajectory could rapidly change by March if Gingrich's armada of newly minted supporters begins to examine his record.  The enthusiasm he now enjoys will begin to ebb as people begin to reflect on his history and current events.  That is not to say that Gingrich will be subdued by his own ego.  It's just that so many know him from so many years and carry resentment toward him that few resources will be offered to help him succeed.  His is a candidacy familiar to many in Congress.  In fact, a tally of congressional endorsements indicates that Gingrich gets the support of six of his congressional colleagues versus the forty-four enjoyed by Romney.

So how does this all play out in January?  First, Newt's rise will enable him to enjoy a strong showing in the early states.  Mitt Romney will need to play a stronger hand if he is to stop Gingrich's rise to the top.  Secondly, the electorate will begin to coalesce around the two candidates through the caucus and primaries during those first few weeks of the new year.  However, the big if for Newt is whether or not he can translate his grassroots enthusiasm and the frontrunner status into donations and support from the establishment.  Or does his two-hundred-pound rucksack begin to weigh on his campaign?  In all likelihood, it's a little bit of both.  Newt blows hot and cold, and his temperament is well known in Washington along with his personal foibles.  While Newt has gained steam after nearly obliterating his campaign earlier in the year, it is far from clear whether he can maintain the discipline to finally contend for the presidency.

However, as the electorate begins to look at both campaigns more clearly and the real campaigning begins toward Super Tuesday, the Newt Gingrich gap with Mitt Romney will begin to close.  This is not to say that Romney can play a waiting game.  He must begin to show the bolder stroke and counter the effervescent mind of Gingrich.  And while Romney can rely on his money, organization, and rules changes in the early part of the primary season, he must begin to craft a reason for voters to overcome the anybody-but=Mitt problem which faces his candidacy.  He can and will respond to changing conditions, as he has demonstrated throughout this campaign season.

On the other hand, the Democrats and the mainstream media would love to run against Gingrich.  They understand Newt's history and will use it with devastating effectiveness.  In this context, Romney has the lighter load to carry, and he can and will continue the marathon that is the presidential election.  Newt's rucksack, on the other hand, would tire even the fittest candidate.  So as we approach 2012, the electorate, which has seen its favorites come and go, will have to decide.  In the end, it will come down to anybody but Obama!

Mark Skoda is a syndicated conservative talk show host, blogger, and founder of the Memphis TEA Party.  He is also president of MPS Broadcasting.  He can be contacted at mark@markskoda.com.