Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Will Newt Do?

Will Newt fight on to the convention? Will he continue attacking Romney, or will he back off? What are the incentives at play here?

As Ed Kilgore notes, party leaders will presumably now lean on the disgraced former Speaker to "get out of the race—or at a minimum, to play nice." Will he listen? Especially if, as Steve Kornacki argues, at least part of the whole point of his candidacy is to sell more books (and movies, and lectures, and whatever else he can come up with).

One set of questions here is whether GOP leaders would really be willing to threaten to cut Newt off from the institutions that combine to produce conservative respectability, and whether they have the clout to do so. I don't really know the answers to that, but I suspect they mostly can't or won't. It's almost certainly a solid marketing move by Newt, Inc. to attempt to grab the title of The Conservative Leader...and even if those portions of the GOP that care a lot about winning elections may wind up upset with him, those portions which care most about purity and full expressions of conservative "ideas" are going to be very happy with him. It's almost certainly win-win, too: if Romney loses conservative purists will claim that it was because he wasn't conservative enough (and Newt can cash in) while if Romney wins then conservatives will complain that he's betraying them with his moderate policies. And Newt can cash in. (Not saying that Romney will attempt to be a moderate in office, but conservative purists will naturally be disappointed in the results because purists on both sides are always disappointed in the results and almost always blame the president).

Another issue, however, is about market sizes. Remember, you need an enormous number of votes to be elected President of the United States, and quite a few votes to be nominated for that office. But you can make a very good living off of a fairly small number of dupes, as long as they're rich enough and willing to keep shelling out for every new product you come up with.

So all in all I'm not really sure where Newt's incentives lie, other than to say that I'm quite certain that he really, really knows his marks and what works with them.

8 comments:

  1. at least part of the whole point of his candidacy is to sell more books (and movies, and lectures, and whatever else he can come up with)

    Well, that's been clear from the very beginning, hasn't it?

    And when you consider that, it's hard to see what Newt gains from dropping out. Sure, he might piss off some of the GOP powers-that-be by staying in, but that's not going to stop him from publishing books, raking in speaking fees, etc.

    At this point Newt can't be banking on goodwill from the GOP establishment (such as it is), no matter what happens from here on out. His target market is, as you imply, a loose collection of bigots, conspiracy nuts, and Birchers, none of which care one iota about Newt's standing with "GOP leaders".

    ReplyDelete
  2. what's the difference between party leaders and the establishment. Or party actors.

    I'd imagine there are large parts of the GOP machine that like the additional attention. An ongoing fued doesn't hurt downticket race at all. Primaries mean more money being spent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here's the best I can do  on that one.

      As long as Newt plays nice, or at least reasonably so, I would guess we'll go back and forth between people believing that the continued fight helps or hurts Romney, but in fact it probably makes very little difference.

      Delete
    2. Really??? It seems to me indisputable that a longer primary campaign hurts Romney, if only because the negative ads keep running. (Just look at the damage Newt's ads - and Mitt's responses thereto - have done to Mitt's standing among independents.)

      Better for certain parts of the party? Sure. But better for Mitt himself (either in general or specifically in terms of his chances in November)? I don't see any honest argument to be made for that.

      Delete
  3. I don't think Newt has much motivation to play nice:

    1) If Mitt wins in the fall, Newt's attacks on him will be forgotten, while Mitt will sooner or later disappoint hard line conservatives. Thus a market opening for 'holding Mitt's feet to the fire.'

    2) If Mitt loses in the fall, many Republicans will blame Newt for damaging him - but hard line conservatives will gravitate to an 'I told you so' message.

    So either way, Newt has more to gain from playing the true believer than from playing nice.

    ReplyDelete
  4. At one time, it looked like Newt was trying and succeeding at being an elder statesman type. That's long over, and there's no going back.

    I agree that he's now aiming for the very conservative wing. But the part that will support him with $$$ is going to get smaller and smaller the longer he goes on and the nastier he gets. So his future pay-off can shrink quite a bit. However, he's been known to do things to his detriment before, and he seems in high dudgeon and ready to do so again.

    Maybe when it's all over, he'll go into the newsletter biz. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. IMHO, the academic "Newt impossibility" theory is based more on visceral reaction to him than empirical evidence. Consider who the GOP nominated last time around: a guy who pretty much everyone hates, a guy whose entire political equity is steeped in staggering self-serving hypocrisy, who eight years previously had done just about everything in his power to alienate the social conservative base of his party. A guy who, like Newt, has serious difficulty playing nice with others. How is Gingrich possibly a more implausible nominee than McCain?

    Indeed, AFAICT the comparison grows more unfavorable to McCain the deeper one digs. The whispers following McCain must surely be far worse than anything dogging Gingrich, no? Whispers that McCain impetuousness led to the Forrestal disaster that killed 168 of his fellow sailors. Contemporary whispers that McCain's stay in the Hanoi Hilton was mostly a 3-bedroom apartment in the actual Hanoi Hilton, with well-stocked fridge and long supply of hookers, provided in exchange for continuing military intelligence. Even if we accept that Gingrich is a real bad character, how on earth could his stigma possibly compare with McCain's? Even if you don't like the innuendo, you still have the problem that McCain has the greatest brand name in the history of brand names, and yet he slinked out of the Navy without so much as one of the 4 stars earned by both his father and grandfather.

    In conclusion, while Gingrich has epic liabilities, and its clear that folks far and wide love to hate on him for those liabilities, I simply can't fathom how, as an empirical matter, Gingrich's baggage exceeds that of John S. McCain III.

    Nobody has more baggage than McCain.

    ReplyDelete
  6. One set of questions here is whether GOP leaders would really be willing to threaten to cut Newt off from the institutions that combine to produce conservative respectability, and whether they have the clout to do so. I don't really know the answers to that, but I suspect they mostly can't or won't.

    I think you are right about this and I love this. The right is getting hoist on its own petard with respect to creating an ideological, fact free media ecosphere.

    ReplyDelete

Who links to my website?