But the Republican Party electorate is clearly desperate, deluded, and filled with ennui right now. Everything we know about the adaptable Gingrich tells us that he will bend over backwards to give Republican audiences what they want, whether or not it comports with what he was saying the day before yesterday. In this strange environment, that might be all that’s necessary.Kilgore is a smart, veteran observer of the political process...but I'm not buying it. His argument rests on the idea that Newt is well-positioned to do well in Iowa by running as the Christian conservative candidate, presumably assuming that neither the Huck or the Sage of Wasilla wind up contesting that state. After that, if he wins there and derails the Pawlenty Express before it gets started, he would then I guess, in the best-case scenario, be in a one-on-one contest with the Mittster, who has all sorts of well-known problems and potential problems with Republican voters.
Well, it's true that conservatives in Iowa have done all sorts of nutty things in past caucuses, most famously supporting Pat Robertson (2nd place, ahead of sitting VP Bush) in 1988.
Still, I think the Newt scenario is too far-fetched to be plausible.
Problem #1 is that GOP elites, especially the ones he worked with when he was Speaker, probably neither like nor trust him very much. Yes, Iowa social conservatives are willing to vote for people who are disdained by other conservative leaders. But is Newt really going to get the kind of support from Christian conservative leaders, especially national leaders, that Mike Huckabee had in 2008? I find that very, very difficult to believe, no matter how much he's been tailoring his rhetoric to appeal to them. After all, it's not as if those leaders have nowhere else to go; Tim Pawlenty and even, for that matter, Rick Santorum are both perfectly acceptable on the issues that matter to those groups.
Problem #2 is that voters haven't much liked Newt, throughout his career. Once he hit the national scene, his approval ratings tanked rapidly, and have generally stayed there. It's true that core Republican activists loved him, at least for a while, but then again he never faced Republican opposition back then attacking him on...well, where to start? His marital history? Ethics violations? Myriad ideological deviations, over the years, including his climate ad with Nancy Pelosi? His status as a Washington insider? A lot of people after 2008 thought that Sarah Palin was bulletproof, but in fact over the last couple of years attacks, including a fair number from conservatives, have hurt her. The same would be true for Gingrich, if he became a serious candidate. And unlike Palin, Newt has no core of strong supporters who will be with him no matter what.
Even if Newt could somehow manage to pull off an Iowa victory and narrow the field to himself and Romney, that's no real contest; the Mittster would clobber him. Don't forget -- the skill Kilgore attributes to Newt, that he would adapt to whatever Republicans want, is a skill shared with the former governor of Massachusetts. I'm not sure, either, that Newt's ties the South that Kilgore mentions would really be significant; he's not culturally very Southern at all (although perhaps more than Romney, I suppose).
I'm going to continue to not take the Newt presidential run seriously, at all. But do read Kilgore's column, and perhaps you'll be more persuaded than I am -- and, regardless, he has plenty of good Newt stuff in there that makes it worth reading regardless.