Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What is Newt Thinking?

So Newt Gingrich, fresh off a 5th place finish in Iowa and a (barely) 4th place finish in New Hampshire, now goes to South Carolina guns blazing. He's targeting Mitt Romney, but if he really wanted to beat Romney he presumably would just drop out and endorse Rick Santorum (or I suppose Rick Perry). Instead, he's choosing a course that perhaps makes it more likely that Romney will win, but that (at least in the margins) weakens him in November, which also means that he's seriously annoying GOP partisans.

So what is Newt thinking? I went through this last week with Rick Perry. Matt Glassman stresses that candidates may be acting strategically, but with goals other than winning the nomination. I mostly discounted that with Perry, but Newt? That's a whole 'nother story. There have been two basic Theories Of Newt during the 2012 cycle. The first is that it's just a brand-maintenance exercise, with the strongest version of that claiming that Newt actively doesn't want the nomination; he just wants to make money. The other is that Newt is following his visions of himself as Churchill or de Gaulle, about to be called back from political exile to save his nation at it's moment of greatest peril; if that's the case, Newt is really demeaning himself in his own eyes by even participating in the process at all.

What I can't see is how his present course of action fits with either of those goals. Surely getting beat up by Rush Limbaugh can't be good for his standing within the conservative marketplace. But it's also not good for getting the nomination! Unless this is all some elaborate plan to alienate Newt from his party, thus making him even more Churchill-like when they finally wise up and beg him to be their nominee at some unspecified point in the future (this summer? In 2016? After an EMP attack by the Iranians and the North Koreans next March?)

Or maybe, as some have said, it's just blind rage revenge against Mitt Romney, even if by staying in he's actually helping Mitt. After all, Newt is a great snake oil salesman, but not a particularly good strategist, whatever he constantly says about himself.

17 comments:

  1. Or he is just an egomanic. Just saying...

    Newt is not a fool. He was early to jump on CSPAN and cable news. I think he is sensing the FOX news grip on the GOP is almost over. Nobody think the National Review or anything like that is in charge over there anymore, for example. I think if he is being strategic, he is trying to catch the anger with the base in regards to the nomination process.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Getting beat up by Rush may not be good for Newt's standing in the conservative marketplace, but if he's just after the money and publicity, it's the overall marketplace that he's concerned about. And, guess what, he's getting lots of attention from the mainstream media for his seemingly nonsensical decision to attack Romney from the left. Mission accomplished!

    On the other hand, maybe Newt really does care about what the hard-core right thinks about him. If that's the case, then the explanation for his actions is even more simple: if it looks like incompetence, sounds like incompetence, and smells like incompetence, well, it's probably incompetence!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't think the strategy here is hard to figure. Newt no doubt believes (correctly) that Romney is vulnerable as a general-election candidate, and that raising doubts about him now might still be enough to prevent his nomination. If so, then the whole thing is suddenly up for grabs, and Newt probably figures he's more likely than Santorum, Perry or Paul to become the new frontrunner. Or, failing that, he weakens Romney enough to ensure that nominee Romney isn't elected president, keeping things interesting on the GOP side for the foreseeable future. The point is, instability at this stage benefits Newt, while smoothing Romney's path doesn't. The only reason to make nice to Romney is if you're hoping a for a place in his Cabinet or a future in Republican electoral politics, and Newt probably sees himself as above the first and beyond the second.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Or a silly conspiracy theory one step beyond what Jeff said:

    Romney has a hidden, devastating problem that Newt knows something about. Not enough to go public with an accusation, but enough that Newt thinks Romney is doomed. Sticking around becomes much more interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Getting beaten up by Rush certainly hasn't hurt Romney any. Nor did it hurt John McCain in 2008.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't care what Newt is thinking. That documentary brought tears to my eyes and angered me tremendously. Finally a political ad that doesn't just use 30-second sound bites, but tells the truth about what has been happening to our country. Bravo. This ad may not be good for Newt's political prospects, but who cares -- it's good for the USA.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Newt's actions make perfect sense if he believes that Romney is going to be the Republican nominee AND Obama is going to win in November. Newt gets to spend the next four years making a ton of money saying "I warned them not nominate Romney". He probably see this as his chance to control the ideological future of the Republican party and expects Limbaugh to start sucking up the day after the election.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good - opens up freedom of movement on the left-deviationist side, too: Newt could even get the old couch out of storage and find new Progs, or even Pelosi herself, to sit with on selected issues.

      Delete
  8. I think the bottom line is that Newt is just extremely impulsive. He may have rational goals (and even that's debatable, if you accept the theory that it's about settling scores with Mitt), but that doesn't mean he always finds the most plausible way to reach them.

    I also think the recent Bain Capital brouhaha has given the right an opening for coalescing around Romney. It's kind of like in 2008, when the right came to McCain's defense over the NYT article alleging a possible affair with a lobbyist. When they can frame the situation as a librul assault, it can be a way of sneaking in support even for a candidate they've been previously attacking.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Newt's actions make perfect sense when you look at them through Newt's ego, and see that he is a very old man at 68 and that this is his last political stand. There is nothing left for Newt except to make more speeches and sell more books. So to satisfy his enormous ego, he needs to make this moment last as long as possible. Keep getting into the debates. Anyway, Romney has a glass chin, and it's better to have this out now than closer to election day. Unlike most years, there simply isn't a VP possibility among Romney's competition, so these guys have zero reason to drop out right now. Zero reason.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I was going to suggest what William Ockham suggested:

    Being the most aggressive Anti-Romney might look like a very smart career move if and when Romney loses to Obama.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I don't think Newt is thinking this far ahead, but how would Romney winning in 2012 help him? Romney isn't going to appoint Newt to anything and he's never going to run for elected office again. In many ways, the worst thing that can happen to a Republican pundit is to have a Republican president (and the opposite holds true for Democrats).

    Of course Nader and Lieberman used the same logic against Gore in 2000, and were severely punished for it. There's a chance that some Republicans will blame Gingrich for a Romney defeat depending on how hard he goes at him (and if Romney wins, of course this will be worse). Oh well, no one has ever claimed Gingrich was a smart strategist. It's just if you're a generic Republican pundit which Gingrich was before entering the race, it's far from clear that an Obama defeat is the worst thing that can happen to you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think the conspiracy is pretty clear: the humanities academics in this race have finally closed ranks strategically. J.D. lecturer Obama and non-tenured Ph.D. Gingrich are ready to destroy vulture MBA Romney.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent point. Fear the invincible power of the humanities academics! :-)

      Delete
  13. good points by others:

    "Getting beat up by Rush may not be good for Newt's standing in the conservative marketplace, but if he's just after the money and publicity, it's the overall marketplace that he's concerned about."

    "Newt's actions make perfect sense if he believes that Romney is going to be the Republican nominee AND Obama is going to win in November"

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is an action by Newt with no long term downside for him and a possible big upside.

    Today he stated his goal as “...to get rid of Romney ... to remove Mitt Romney from the competitive ranks.” Now most folks think all he'll be able to do is rough Mitt up a little bit--and maybe that's true, but from Newt's POV so what.

    When the dust settles, he'll be welcomed back into the fold and he'll campaign for Mitt. If Mitt wins, Newt will claim credit as the guy who made him a better candidate and Newt will be a conservative hero. If Mitt fails, Newt will be able to tell folks that he tried to warn them about running a squish against President Obama and Newt will be a fighter for the conservative cause who wasn't afraid to take on GOP elites to protect the movement. Either outcome is a win for Newt with very little downside.

    Sure there are folks who hate him and would like to knife him in the back, but that has always been true for Newt. Their hate is like water on a duck's back for The Professor and it helps him build his brand as a Party "maverick" (no wonder Todd endorsed him).

    Best of all for Newt is that if he runs the table and is able to damage and remove Romney from "the competitive ranks", he would be the Romney killer and the logical choice of many Republican voters and elites for the nimination. Sure, they might go with Santorum or Perry or--if the ball bounces just right--with Paul, but of that field, Newt has to feel like he might just be able to pull it off. All of that is an extreme long shot, but it's still a possible path.

    But whatever happens, Newt faces no downside to attacking Romney hammer and tongs. Regardless of the outcome he'll be fine and if things break his way he still has a very, very narrow shot at victory.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thank you all very much, I just get the willies and go find some dirty job that needs to be done around the house, when I even get close to philosophically putting myself in the shoes of The Newtster.

    ReplyDelete

Who links to my website?