Rush is Right about Newt
On Monday's broadcast, Rush Limbaugh pegged the reason why Newt Gingrich is gaining so much traction in the GOP presidential sweepstakes: Newt's articulating conservatism. Newt is a "vessel" for grassroots conservatives who want a GOP nominee who actually makes the case for conservatives confidently, persuasively, and without any hedging or apologies.
Think about Rush's point, ye who are quick to disparage the grassroots for cheerleading Newt.
After all, where's the passion for Newt Gingrich? That's Newt the man -- the personally flawed man whose political path hasn't exactly been a straight line.
Speaker Gingrich helped balance budgets; consultant Newt shilled for the profligate Freddie Mac. American Solutions Newt called for a fundamental overhaul of the EPA; Newt the DC insider cut a commercial with Nancy Pelosi doing a green song and dance. Historian Newt speaks admiringly of FDR; presidential candidate Newt never fails to call himself a Reagan Republican (when did Romney last do that?).
Grassroots conservatives are hungering for candidates who aren't going to triangulate; they don't want a candidate like Romney, who's top-heavy with hired guns trying to concoct a formula just to win. Of course, GOP candidates need to win. Wrapping the flag around oneself and jumping off a cliff, as Ronald Reagan was wont to say, doesn't advance the cause.
What grassroots conservatives are saying, via the Gingrich rise, is that GOP candidates can win carrying the arguments for conservatism to voters. The Republican establishment lacks the confidence (perhaps, the conviction) to go to the voters as unapologetic conservatives.
Romney-the-manager, Romney-the-fixer, generally gives audiences techno talk and platitudes. Granted, the man has a naturally cool demeanor; passion's not Romney's bag. But Romney also has a calculation, one wages, that underlies his campaign: conservatism isn't sellable to the broader electorate.
Romney, it appears, like his Republican establishment cohorts, is sold on the notion that generational and demographic changes, among others, make candidates who issue full-throated proclamations for conservative principles, values, and policies, anathema to independents.
This explains, in part, Romney's Last Man Standing strategy; he's attempting to outlast his conservative rivals while maintaining his moderation. Romney's gambling that even if he gets the nomination by a whisker running as a moderate, he'll be better positioned for the general election. If Romney secures the GOP nomination, watch him scamper to the middle, further softening his positions.
It's not that Romney is devoid of conservative beliefs or sensibility. Yet Romney needs to be pushed by his GOP opponents to frame issues in more conservative terms, as has happened lately. Conservative language is as clunky coming from Romney's mouth as Mandarin would be (Jon Huntsman to the rescue).
A President Romney would generally govern conservatively - as in GOP establishment conservative. But remedial reforms of government might prove a bridge too far for Romney. At the end of Romney's tenure, it's a fair bet that the federal leviathan would still be a leviathan, though growing more slowly. Pop open the champagne.
If Romney has an inner passionate conservative clawing to breakout, he needs to show it, and pronto. Grassroots conservatives don't want stealth conservatism from a GOP presidential nominee; they want conviction, confidence, and proclamations. Hence, Newt's attraction, per Rush's analysis.