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Posts Tagged ‘Gingrich’
February 26th, 2013 at 1:18 pm
On Sequester, Is Obama Crying ‘Wolf’?

In my weekly spot last Thursday on the terrific WKRG-TV, channel 5 news in Mobile, I explain why, just possibly, this battle over the “sequester” might end better for Republicans politically than did the Gingrich “government shutdown” battles of 1995-1996. It could be that Barack Obama has overplayed his hand, and overplayed his warnings.

 

December 2nd, 2012 at 9:51 am
At Least Gingrich Learns

I have always had extremely mixed feelings about Newt Gingrich, admiring much about him and being appalled by much about him. Usually, when he is NOT directly in the political arena he makes more sense commenting on the arena than he does as an actor in the arena. So it is with the passage quoted by Ashton below.

Here is the key part of that quotation: “At any point they wanted to, the President and the Congress could reduce the “cliff” to a series of foothills by breaking the problem into ten or twenty component parts. They could then focus on solving each problem on its own merits and out in the open with public hearings, public understanding and public involvement.”

Gingrich is absolutely right on this. Maybe he learned from his mistakes as speaker, when he repeatedly tried to put big packages together rather than break things into, yes, component parts. Not that it was all Gingrich’s fault, and not that I had much of an audience then, but as a leadership press secretary I talked myself blue in the face (I wasn’t important enough to have the ear of somebody who could do anything about it, I guess) complaining that we kept forcing all-or-nothing, edge-of-cliff battles rather than fighting and winning discrete skirmishes where we could stake out the high ground and dominate the field.

In fact, Republicans in 1995 were winning the budget battles until Gingrich let Bill Thomas talk him into including a tiny little Medicare “fix” in what had been a clean fight over Appropriations. Once that happened, Clinton was able to unleash his “Mediscare” campaign and seize the upper hand.

Way back in the early 1990s, New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy wanted to push through major tax reforms and other changes, and he put them into one huge package. At Gambit Weekly, we urged him to break it down into component parts and present a menu to the voters. He didn’t, and his initiative lost big. He came back the next time and did it our way, and got almost everything he wanted. And that’s what usually happens: Give citizens a chance to look at things in chewable bites, and common sense often wins. Try to make them swallow something massive, and they can’t grasp the whole thing, so they buy the liberal media narrative, whatever it is.

Anyway, I’m rambling here, but the point is that whatever Gingrich’s history — some of it excellent as speaker, some of it awful — he is right on target in the remarks cited above, and he should be listened to. Actually, I have a version of the “component part” idea waiting for this week’s column, already written.  Messrs. Boehner and McConnell really should take Gingrich’s advice.

March 19th, 2012 at 5:34 pm
Louisiana’s Big Contest… in April

On Saturday, Rick Santorum is favored to win, albeit narrowly, in the Louisiana primary. But the actual delegate allocation from Louisiana could range from a wide Santorum win to, oddly enough, a significant victory for Ron Paul who barely is even bothering to campaign in the primary.

How could this be?

Well, here’s how it works: The primary will be determinative for only 20 of Louisiana’s 46 delegates. Those 20 will be allocated in accord with the proportion of the vote won by each presidential candidate — assuming that a candidate gets at least 25 percent of the vote. ANY votes for all candidates who do not cross that 25 percent threshold will be added together and their proportion of the whole will be allocated as UNCOMMITTED delegates. Three other officially uncommitted delegates will be the state’s members of the Republican National Committee.’

All other delegates, all 23 of them, will be chosen at a state convention not held until June 2. Moreover, the delegates to that state convention will not be chosen in any way, shape or form as a result of the primary this Saturday. Instead, they will be chosen at caucuses to be held throughout the state on April 28. So it is perfectly feasible, for instance, for Ron Paul to get less then 10% of the vote on Saturday, and thus to win not a single one of the 20 delegates chosen this week, but still to win the vast majority of the other 23 delegates on June 2.

Word on the ground is that Paul is extremely well organized for the caucuses. It might be that the only way to defeat him is for the Santorum and Gingrich organizations to join forces, at least in tactical alliances if not formally, at each of the caucuses.

But here’s the deal: If Santorum wins a narrow victory on Saturday and gains, say, 6 delegates to 5 each for Gingrich and Romney… but Gingrich later drops out and his Louisiana campaign organization folds into Santorum’s, then the caucus rules (which are too complicated to explain here) are such that Santorum could come close to sweeping the other 23 delegates on June 2. (Obviously, the same would be true if Gingrich and Romney joined forces, but that isn’t going to happen.)

This is another example of how Gingrich’s presence in the race directly hurts Santorum. Everybody has been calling Louisiana a “proportional allocation state,” giving the impression that even a Santorum popular vote win would not do much to bolster his overall national delegate position. But because slim majorities or even pluralities can have outsized influence in caucuses, the truth is that half of all the Louisiana delegates are very much up for grabs and could swing very strongly in one direction or another. Gingrich’s continued presence in the race could swing almost all of those 23 to Paul; his withdrawal from the race would swing them mostly to Santorum. And since Paul is thought, in the long run, to be in far more friendly to Romney, those delegates in the end would probably be likely to move Romney’s way in a contested convention.

It’s all highly convoluted. But the arithmetic is undeniable: Gingrich’s presence hurts Santorum. This is not to say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing; it’s just a straight analysis of how the rules combined with the arithmetic combined with the situation on the ground are likely to play out.

March 14th, 2012 at 7:18 pm
Romney’s Weak Arithmetic

Elsewhere tomorrow I’ll have an extensive analysis explaining why Newt Gingrich’s argument on delegate arithmetic doesn’t hold water. Here, though, just as pure math, not as advocacy, let me note that Mitt Romney’s message today that he won “more delegates” than anybody else last night (once he counts Samoa and Hawaii) is not really relevant.

For Romney to win the nomination, he needs to win 50% of all delegates. Right now he’s at about 53% of those awarded so far. But the key thing is, last night he didn’t win anywhere near 50%. Instead, he won just over a third of them. He needs to win something like 48% of all the remaining delegates to take the nomination. If he keeps winning less than that 48%, then it doesn’t matter if he earns a small plurality in a multi-man race; all that matters is that he is falling behind the pace he needs for a first-ballot convention victory.

By general agreement, if Romney doesn’t win on the first ballot, he’s almost assuredly toast, because he will be seen as such damaged goods (having blown every advantage) that the party would coalesce behind somebody else. Again, that’s just an assumption, not advocacy. But if the goal is a first ballot victory, then yesterday was a big setback, even after factoring in Samoa and Hawaii.

(By the way, the numbers above are approximate, for illustrative purposes. I know they aren’t precisely the numbers, but as the real numbers are a moving target anyway, I just went from memory of the summaries I’ve read earlier today.)

March 10th, 2012 at 11:19 am
Gingrich in Mobile

Unlike Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich doesn’t do much to alter his basic speech from event to event — but, judging from the comments all around me, he still manages to hold the interest of, or even entertain, his audience.

Speaking last night at an antique car museum in the heart of the (white) blue-collar area of Mobile, AL, Gingrich used the backdrop to make the obvious point that gasoline sure was a lot cheaper back when those cars were on the road. He then moved into what already is becoming a familiar, but instructive, litany of Barack Obama’s transgressions against reasonable energy policies — including Gingrich’s favorite new target, namely Obama’s recent embrace of yet another new form of bio-fuel:

“I don’t think [the museum owner] has a single algae car!”

Gingrich told a humorous story about when oil shortages in the late 1970s briefly created rationing systems in which drivers could buy gasoline only on certain days, depending on whether their license plates ended with an odd number or an even one. He said his friend  (and mine) David Bossie, now president of Citizens United, remembers being 13 years old and having his father send him out each morning with a screwdriver to switch the license plates back and forth between the family’s two cars, depending on which one needed gas.

Gingrich said conservatives and liberals naturally react differently to “laws so dumb that fathers enlist 13-year-old sons to break them” (that’s actually a very close paraphrase; I didn’t get the exact words of the quote). Conservatives, Gingrich said, would naturally want to get rid of such a dumb regulation. Liberals, he said, would insist we need to hire some license-plate police.

Gingrich moved on from energy to foreign affairs long enough to say that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “should resign tonight” if Panetta really believed that a U.S. administration need more “permission” from foreign powers than from the U.S. Congress when deciding whether to use American force.

He blasted Barack Obama for having, in the same fortnight, apologized to Afghanis for mistaken Koran burnings even after Afghanis killed innocent U.S. troops — in other words, showing outsized deference to radical Islam — at the same time he was moving ahead with violations of religious liberties (especially of Christians) within the United States via his mandate on insurance coverage of abortifacients. He accused the administration of being “disrespectful and bigoted… about [against] Christianity…. We are tired of you denigrating our culture, our religion, our beliefs.”

Back to energy, Gingrich went on at great length (as Santorum had earlier in the day in Mobile) about the vast new energy supplies found in North Dakota — and he noted that Barack Obama in his recent press conference spent lots of words denigrating “drilling” as a solution for energy problems, only to shortly thereafter  claim credit for great new supplies of natural gas. But, asked Gingrich rhetorically, how does Obama think the new gas was found?

The answer, of course, is drilling — in areas that would never even have been explored had Obama succeeded in an attempt he made as a senator in 1987 to end the U.S. Geological Survey’s task of keeping and developing an inventory of fossil fuel potential. “This is a case study,” said Gingrich, “in cognitive dissonance.” (AND, whispered my wife, “cognitive dissidence too!”)

Finally, Gingrich moved onto the political outlook for his presidential campaign. He belittled Mitt Romney’s sales pitch about the importance of a businessman’s managerial ability in the Oval Office. “You don’t need a manger in the White House,” said Gingrich. “You need a visionary leader…. As it says in Proverbs, “without vision, the people perish.”

January 24th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
Newt the Anti-Racist

At The American Spectator, I defend Newt Gingrich from scurrilous leftist charges that he is appealing to racist sentiments. Yet even though it is already a long post (please do read it), there is more to be said.

It is this: Have you ever noticed how seldom it is that conservatives ever actually say anything connecting food stamps or welfare with blacks — but how often it is that any time liberals hear those words, they immediately think that it is blacks who are being referred to?

At best, this is liberal paternalism in action. Worse, it could be the same thing that motivates racial preferences and other, similar liberal nostrums: namely, the assumption by the left that black Americans can’t be expected to be successes unless government helps them. It is an assumption that seems only to be applied to black people. It is a flat-out wrong assumption. But it almost always comes from the left, not the right.

In reality, there is no racial component to food stamps. It is shameful to think there is. The shame should be borne by those who do: namely, American liberals.

January 17th, 2012 at 4:03 pm
Monday Night’s Debate

Troy, Ashton, Tim, Renee, Jeff…. any replies to this would be welcome. Anyway, here’s my take on last night’s debate, and the state of the race, from as neutral an analytical perspective as possible:

HUGE LOSER: Ron Paul finally marginalized himself irretrievably, especially in a pro-military state like South Carolina, with his lengthy diatribes basically positing that the Taliban weren’t all that bad and that bin Laden deserved a trial, or something like that. Plus, he wandered and meandered and sounded more shrill than usual. A horrible performance for him.

LOSER: Mitt Romney had his worst debate performance by far. He started okay and ended okay, both times in exchanges mainly with Gingrich, over the roles and behavior of Super PACs. But in between he was flustered, off his game, a bit stumbling, nervous-looking — and completely bumfuddled by Rick Santorum’s cross-examination about felon voting rights. Just when he had a chance to put the race away for good, he let others back in the game.

SLIGHTLY HELPED HIMSELF: Rick Perry has made himself almost irrelevant by his bad earlier debates and weak finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Last night, though, he was on his game, even if his substance was, well, not really substantial. Michelle Bachmann would have blown him out the door for saying we should completely eliminate foreign aid, because of course some of that aid actually “buys” for us essential things like cooperation on intelligence, plus military bases, etcetera. What he said about Turkey being virtually a terrorist state was absurdly overstated. But he played very well to whatever purely populist voting bloc is out there, and he did a great job blasting the Obama administration on its “war” on South Carolina over voter ID laws. Overall, if Perry had done this well in the first 10 debates, he might not be dominating, but he would still be very much in the mix in the polls.

BRAVURA LEMONADE-MAKING FROM LEMONS: Rick Santorum only got one question that actually played into his “wheelhouse,” as the expression goes. Almost every time he was given a chance to talk, it was on a subject that wouldn’t ordinarily play well for him. For that reason, he probably only helped himself a little more than he was hurt last night — but if he had not had his “A” game, it could have been a disaster. For instance, he was pressed on his truly wrongheaded vote years ago to automatically restore voting privileges (in federal elections only) to felons once they have fully satisfied all parole and probation requirements. On the merits, I think this is a horrible position. Most conservatives agree. Nothing should be automatic for some former felony inmates; full privileges should come only after careful review by a board convened for that purpose. On the other hand, Santorum always has had this subtext thing going of the Catholic social-gospel, people-can-be-redeemed-and-forgiven variety. It speaks well of him as a human being. This long-ago vote was his way of saying, hey, if you’ve fully paid your legal debt to society, you again become a full member of the society.

Conservatives don’t agree. Conservatives think some crimes are virtually unforgivable, and, moreover, that if they are to be forgiven, it should not be automatic, just by jumping through enough hoops with the passage of time. The good news is that such a proposal will never be politically popular enough to pass Congress, so people inclined toward Santorum but who don’t like this old vote of his shouldn’t worry about it being a serious effort.

But I digress. Somehow, Santorum actually won, big, in his exchange on the issue with Romney. Santorum correctly and effectively blasted the Romney super-PAC for falsely making it appear as if Santorum favors allowing current inmates to vote. Then he hit Romney from the right again (and from the standpoint of whether Romney is either courageous enough or competent enough) because Romney did nothing even to attempt to change Massachusetts law that allows felons to vote even before completing parole and probation. In short, Santorum turned a negative into a slight political positive overall, if only because the bigger impression wasn’t that he is a “squish” on felons, but that he is more honest, more thoughtful, more fair, and tougher than Mitt Romney. Santorum also gave really solid answers on gun rights and on the connection between marriage (or its lack) and poverty. If the debate had been a two-man affair between him and Romney, Santorum would have scored an enormous victory.

BIG WINNER, BUT WITH AN ASTERISK: Newt Gingrich’s performance was a perfect reverse-image of Romney’s. Whereas Romney did pretty well on the opening and closing questions but stumbled in the middle, Gingrich started and ended poorly but in the middle had what most pundits are calling the single best debate performance of this endless nomination season. I wonder, though, if it was a vote-winning performance. In an earlier debate, for instance, my wife astutely said that with detailed answers Rick Santorum was “winning minds without winning votes” (or as I put it, impressing without “connecting” with voters); here, I think Gingrich won visceral reactions without changing minds. Here’s the thing: by now, everybody expects some excellent debate moments from Gingrich. People know he can hit tee balls out of the park. But is that still enough to gain their allegiance? People have seen him all over the map on so many issues, and have seen him so desperate and mean about Bain and other anti-Romney jeremiads, that now they want to see something from him that touches their hearts, not just their viscera, and that tells them he can actually be a steady enough performer (not just an occasionally exciting or explosive one) in a full general-election campaign.

In that light, it struck me that Gingrich really didn’t look good, particularly at the beginning of the debate. He looked a bit pale; he looked grim; he looked particularly fat of body but oddly thin of face; and he didn’t look friendly. Indeed, I think he looked, overall, unappealing, unhealthy, and unlikeable. And even when he was destroying the premised of Juan Williams’ questions, there was a weirdly off-putting edge to him. He was too “hot” (as opposed to figuratively “cool”) for TV, in both tone and visage. It was almost as if he was making one last hurrah before another bomb, a big one, drops on him. It was as if he was in a particularly foul mood because he knows his goose is cooked, for some reason or another.

So, while I concur that Gingrich absolutely dominated the middle portions of debate, with effective and popular positions and explanations, I’m not sure if it will translate into major new poll support. Just a hunch. But it was a hell of a show.

January 10th, 2012 at 1:41 pm
Why Is Romney Seen as Electable?

Just by way of analysis, not meaning to be pro- or anti-Romney’s candidacy — but can anybody give me even a halfway convincing explanation for why the commentariat thinks that Mitt Romney is so much more electable than some of the other GOP candidates? (And no, polls don’t count: Polls aren’t actual analysis, and head-to-head polls for next fall mean absolutely nothing at this stage of a race other than a rough sense of name ID. If they did, Jimmy Carter would have beaten Ronald Reagan by 32 points.)

Usually, at this level, past performance is as good an indicator as anything else. Well, Romney’s past electoral performance is decidely weak. In 1994, as Rick Santorum was pulling an upset to win a Senate seat in Pennsylvania, Romney was getting crushed by Ted Kennedy — in a race where Kennedy actually was seen, even three weeks out, to be far more vulnerable than usual, because the tawdriness of his nephew’s late-1991 rape trial (and his role therein) combined with the overall tawdriness of his long-running behavior, combined with a nationwide revolt against Democrats, made Massachusetts voters unusually open (according to all sorts of polls and focus groups) to replacing him. But, again, Romney got absolutely crushed.

In 2002, Romney won the governorship; in 2006, he chickened out of running for re-election; and in 2008, despite all sorts of financial advantages, he found a way to lose the Republican nomination fairly decisively to a seriously underfunded John McCain, losing a long string of individual primaries in the process.

So, overall, his electoral record is 1-2 — or, if you count each state in 2008 as a separate contest, which might not be exactly fair, he’s something like 2-17.

Add last week’s Iowa result, where he underperformed again (and earned exactly six FEWER votes than he earned in 2008), and you have a candidate who just doesn’t seen to be able to deliver on Election Day.

By contrast, Rick Perry famously has never lost an election (but then again, he hasn’t exactly had as tough a row to hoe in Republican-friendly Texas, and barely won re-election for governor in 2006 over an underfunded Democrat). Rick Santorum, running every single time in battles that were uphill or (once) no better than 50-50 shots (i.e. in districts or a state that was not friendly to Republicans), has won four out of five elections, and outperformed other Republicans in his state in almost every case in doing so. (For instance, in 2000 he won PA by four points while GW Bush was losing it by 5; in 2006, even in losing, he lost by less than the GOP candidate for governor that year did.)

Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Ron Paul aren’t really easy to categorize, because they either come for slam-dunk Republican states (Huntsman) or they haven’t run in anything bigger than a congressional district (Gingrich, although as a national proxy candidate he helped Dole lose in 1996 and the GOP lose House seats in 1998), or their candidacies are so sui generis (Paul) and their electoral history so odd (Paul again, running for president on the Libertarian ticket once) that it makes comparisons difficult. But it’s clear that none of those three has shown any reason for anybody to believe they can compete very well on a national stage, and Perry’s performance so far this year indicates he perhaps wasn’t prepared for national issues.

Which leaves, again, Santorum, having won four of five elections and overperformed so far on the presidential stage, and Romney, having so far lost two of three elections and badly underperformed on the presidential stage. So it makes no sense at all to assume that Romney is more electable in the fall against Barack Obama’s $800 million.

January 7th, 2012 at 1:29 pm
A Plethora of Great Political Analyses

I’ve been so busy this week that I missed the chance to link to a host of excellent pieces as they came out. So now here’s some one-stop-shopping for wonderful political pieces.

First, Jennifer Rubin was on fire this week. She still is bedeviling Newt Gingrich. And she hits Gingrich yet again here. She continues to praise Rick Santorum, this time for running a “thinking person’s race.” (She was one of the only columnists to take Santorum seriously as a candidate as early as late summer.) She defends Santorum from the charge from Rick Perry — whom he continues to criticize — that the Pennsylvanian is somehow a “big government conservative.” (For that matter, I have a new piece answering that same charge, here at National Review Online.) On that same general topic, she blasts “the screechy voices in the blogosphere, the perfectionist pundits…,” those who demand philosophical purity without any political context. (This last was a particularly well argued piece.) She closes a piece analyzing Santorum’s big remaining challenges with a great paragraph: “Republicans can get awfully theoretical and sterile in their approach. Santorum can remind the entire field that politics is also about emotion, connection, inspiration and faith.” And she provides a moving portrayal of Santorum’s wife, Karen.

Whew! That was just in three days.

She’s not the only one writing with eloquence and perspicacity. Two new pieces at The Weekly Standard make the case (as William Kristol has made for months) that it is foolish to anoint a nomination winner prematurely and that “moderate” or “establishment” or “safe” choices are often less likely to win than are candidates the establishment sees as risky.

A note about Bill Kristol: For much of 2011, I repeatedly contended in private conversations with very smart Washington people (along wit columns here and elsewhere)  that Santorum, though a long shot, had a real chance to become a finalist or winner in the GOP nomination sweepstakes. For most of that time, everybody airily dismissed the idea out of hand. Only one conversation went differently. Over coffee in downtown DC with Kristol in early May, Kristol said he doubted Santorum could do it, but that he thought highly of him… AND that, considering what he, Kristol, already recognized as the weaknesses and volatility of this year’s apparent field (this was before the polls themselves became volatile), that he wouldn’t write Santorum off, because he could see a “path to victory” for Santorum, albeit a remote one. He then gave a quick “for instance” hypothetical situation (for just about 45 seconds of our discussion), whose details I don’t remember other than that he was the only person to even suggest Santorum could find such a path. Later in the summer, Jen Rubin started covering Santorum seriously, with the same insight Kristol had, and in the fall blogger R.S. McCain did as well. That was it. Nobody else. So a hat tip to the three of them….

Now, back to good pieces this week. I think the most remarkable piece of the week came from former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama, a thoughtful, moderate, black Democrat whose insights are usually worthwhile. He wrote at NRO that Santorum’s Iowa caucus-night speech was superb — “the best Republican rhetoric in the last decade” –  and offered a real political threat to Democrats. Along those same lines, two OTHER new pieces at the Weekly Standard pick up on some of the same themes: “the neglected substance of the Santorum campaign,” and that “Santorum has the potential to be a formidable opponent to Obama.” As Jonathan Last noted — and this is a theme first seriously highlighted a couple of weeks back by NRO’s Rich Lowry, “It’s an interesting bridge, from economic to moral issues, that Santorum constructs.”

At NRO, Robert Costa called Santorum “a blue collar candidate,” and at the Telegraph in Great Britain, a columnist made Rocky Balboa comparisons in calling him a “working class hero.”

Meanwhile, turning to Mitt Romney, Deroy Murdock penned this absolutely devastating examination of Romney’s record as a tax hiker and a big burdener of business. Particularly of interest this week, Romney even taxes New Hampshireites: ”

As if impoverishing his own taxpayers were not bad enough, Romney’s March 5, 2003 signature raised taxes on non-residents retroactive to that January 1. Perpetrating taxation without representation, Romney’s law declared that, “gross income derived from… any trade or business, including any employment,” would be taxable, “regardless of the taxpayer’s residence or domicile in the year it is received.”

Consequently, according to data furnished by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, between 2002 and 2006, New Hampshire residents who work or do business in the Bay State shipped Massachusetts $95 million above what they paid when Romney arrived. The average tax paid by New Hampshirities to Massachusetts grew by 19.1 percent, from $2,392 in 2002 to $2,850 in 2006.

This is the sort of thing that Newt Gingrich is flinging at Romney. As Murdock shows, there is real substance behind it.

There…. that’s more than enough for now. I think there were others I wanted to highlight, but if I remember them, I’ll do so in another post.

December 27th, 2011 at 11:51 am
The Full Mandate: Gingrich Not Just for a “Bond”

If anybody actually cares about integrity and freedom, this latest news should be big trouble for Newt Gingrich. Somebody (I need to find out who) dug up this old memo from Gingrich praising Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan in fulsome terms, and especially praising its individual mandate to buy health insurance:

The individual mandate requires those who earn enough to afford insurance to purchase coverage, and subsidies will be made available to those individuals who cannot afford insurance on their own. We agree strongly with this principle, but the details are crucial when it comes to the structure of this plan. … In our estimation, Massachusetts residents earning little more than $30,000 a year are in jeopardy of being priced out of the system. In the event that this occurs, Governor Romney will be in grave danger of repeating the mistakes of his predecessor, Mike Dukakis, whose 1988 health plan was hailed as a save-all but eventually collapsed when poorly-devised payment structures created a malaise of unfulfilled promises. We propose that a more realistic approach might be to limit the mandate to those individuals earning upwards of $54,000 per year.

On one hand, this isn’t the most astonishing news: Gingrich has been quoted for 17 years in favor of some sort of individual mandate, and this 2006 citation isn’t even the most recent one. On the other hand, Gingrich has insisted that his proposal was something a little different — some sort of “bond” that rich people would put up — and, also, that he really started moving away from even that “bond” mandate after a while because, really, the reason he was for a mandate was in order to have a conservative alternative to Hillarycare in 1994. At other times he has tried hard to play down or soften the edges of his support for a mandate. But this is unequivocal, and it is within the past six years, and it shows not a single hesitation about undermining individual liberty. Indeed, Gingrich’s only complaint is a class-warfare-inducing lament: Romney stuck the mandate on lower-middle-income earners, whereas Gingrich only would apply it to middle-middle-income earners. Gee, what a relief! (Not!)

Even worse, Gingrich is to the left of Romney on Romney’s own health plan. Romney at worst has only tentatively recommended Romneycare as a whole as a model for the nation; and this year, he has become like a broken record saying he would never impose a mandate via the federal government, and that Romneycare was an example of state-level federalism in action, unique to the circumstances of Massachusetts. Gingrich, on the other hand, wrote this: “The most exciting development of the past few weeks is what has been happening up in Massachusetts. The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system.” Those lines led directly into his discussion of the mandate, which Gingrich described as an example of requiring “personal responsibility.”

All of which leads back to what I said in my May 17 column here on this site, namely that Gingrich and Romney both flunk conservative political philosophy. I repeat now what I wrote then: “[T]he issue here isn’t utility, but liberty. Mussolini ‘made the trains run on time,’ but that should never have justified his authoritarianism. Essential liberty must never be sacrificed on some central planner’s altar of efficiency.”

Or, for that matter, on some former Speaker’s warped notion of what does and doesn’t qualify as “personal responsibility.”

UPDATE: The discoverer of this memo was BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski.

December 9th, 2011 at 10:14 am
Santorum Nabs Big Endorsement

Regarding our ongoing conversation this week about Rick Santorum, it’s worth noting that he just nabbed the endorsement of one of the most rapidly rising stars in Iowa politics, Secretary of State Matt Schultz — a Mormon, no less, who had endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008.

If I were a conservative activist leader, I’d be working on two tracks right now: Doing everything possible to boost Santorum in Iowa and, as an alternative in case he never catches fire, greasing the skids to help draft a candidate like Bobby Jindal into the race as a late entry — a stratagem with a much better chance of success this year than in any year since 1976, according to this new analysis making the rounds.

This is by way of analysis of options, not candidate advocacy — based on the clear sense from conservative movement types, in many many conversations this week, that they are not happy with the idea of a two-man, Romney-Gingrich race.

December 7th, 2011 at 1:58 pm
Re: Santorum v. Newt

Ashton makes great points about how the Trump debate could offer Rick Santorum one last chance to make a splash. He REALLY needs to carefully prepare some explosive sound bites. He actually has done very well in the debates at making overall, sustained points, in understandable fashion. But he hasn’t done so in ways that are memorable or galvanizing. I think sound-bite politics is a hugely unfortunate aspect of today’s campaigns. But it is an essential skill to master.  It’s actually not easy, because it needs to sound substantive enough to NOT sound gimmicky, but it needs to be a bit gimmicky in order to be memorable enough to do real good. It’s even harder when you need to do it against somebody who buries you in words the way Gingrich does.

In short, opportunity knocks, but it’s a heavy door to open…. or something like that.

December 7th, 2011 at 10:53 am
Steyn on Newt…. from 1998

Sheer genius, about the perils of Gingrich. Mark Steyn is funny as can be, and right on target, explaining way back right after it happened that Gingrich lost his speakership because he was weirdo, ninny and Grinch all at the same time. Amazing reading.

November 14th, 2011 at 3:25 pm
Newt Agonistes

Now that he is surging in the polls, Newt Gingrich is likely to come under renewed scrutiny. Jennifer Rubin was nice enough to quote me extensively in this blog post, but she also wrote a whole lot more worth reading, including this:

It is far from certain whether Gingrich will hold up under scrutiny any better than Herman Cain, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and Texas Gov. Rick Perry did. Unlike Perry and Cain, he won’t be perceived as lacking a basic understanding of the issues. But soon he will need to fend off questions about his years in Congress, his support for the individual mandate and the ethical lapses. He will need to address a slew of not-very conservative positions he has taken over the years on everything from TARP to cap-and-trade to illegal immigration. Frankly, he’s been to the left of most of the GOP field on a number of issues.

Rubin also extensively quotes some reader comments, here. Some are rather devastating, such as reasons 4 and 5 from a longer list from somebody named ChrisFord:

Many people remember him as so personally dislikable and intemperate in the 90s he was rejected out of hand for a Presidential spot in 1996 and 2000. That unpopularity lingers, outside Republican ranks, showing him far behind Obama in getting the moderate and independent vote.  Outside the policy wonk area, Newt has shown horrible executive and organizational skills. He has raised little money, despite all his inside the Beltway connections, and his whole staff quit on him last summer over his conduct.

Actually, Rubin had a trifecta of hard-on-Gingrich posts. Here’s another:

When invited to explain why he thinks Romney is merely a good manager and and not a change agent, Gingrich declined. His willingness to sign onto Perry’s notion about reducing all foreign aid to nothing didn’t show him to be a deep thinker. This is an easy applause line, the sort that Gingrich would normally say is beneath him. To be frank, the assessment of many that he “won” the debate reflects the ease with which many are beguiled by Gingrich’s professorial tone. What he says is far less impressive than how he says it.

Carter Eskew, a Democratic consultant to be sure, also hit Gingrich. And now a new e-book, by people who are seen as center to center-right, may cause him more problems.

Then again, if you are surging into first place in the polls, none of this may bother you right now. Truth is, Gingrich wouldn’t be receiving such renewed scrutiny if he hadn’t pulled off a political near-miracle by coming back from the political dead. It seems somebody forgot to put a stake through his heart when they buried him.

October 25th, 2011 at 11:38 am
Still Room for an Entrant Into The GOP Field

I’ll admit it: Early this year, if Mike Pence had decided to run for president, I would have been “all in” for him. Here, Bill Kristol suggests that Pence is one who still should consider changing his “no go” decision. (Oh, what a nice thought!) The larger point that Kristol makes, a point that is right on target, is that there is absolutely no reason why the current shape of the race must remain in place. The vast majority of GOP voters are not yet even remotely committed to any particular candidate. In that light, my column today at The American Spectator names yet another person who party big-wigs ought to try to recruit: Bobby Jindal, who just won re-election as Louisiana governor in a landslide. As you’ll see in my column, Jim Geraghty also has a big Jindal feature in the latest issue of National Review.

To be clear, I’m not saying Jindal would get my vote even if he ran. I might still vote for Rick Santorum. I still see the appeal of Herman Cain.  Whatever. But that’s the point: I’m like more than 80 percent of Republican voters: I’m still able to be swayed.  So, dear reader, are you, almost assuredly. At Real Clear Politics, Scott Conroy says we shouldn’t be fooled, for instance, by Santorum’s low polling numbers, because his organization in Iowa is remarkably strong. I agree.

Right now it appears, for instance, that if either Herman Cain’s outlandish lack of a clue on foreign and defense policy or his weak campaign organization catches up with him and he starts to sink, the next conservative poised to make a challenge is Newt Gingrich, who was given up for dead almost as soon as he entered the race with a thud in the spring. Who woulda thunk that Gingrich could rehabilitate himself? (Who woulda thunk Republican voters would look past Gingrich’s sordid past, his implosion as Speaker based on his arrogance and mercurial nature, his habit of saying nasty things about conservatives, his huge negatives among independent voters, his pathetic pandering on ethanol and on global warming nonsense in general, his habit of sticking his foot in his mouth, or any of his other manifold weaknesses?) But if Gingrich can rise from the political dead all the way to third in the polls, why can’t Santorum catch the next wave? Or why can’t a Jindal jump in with just the right finesse and surge like Cain did, and like Perry and Bachmann did before Cain?

This race remains wide open, folks. Keeping it wide open is a good thing, not a bad one, because it allows more relevant information to surface and tests the candidates more strenuously, making the eventual nominee far more hardened and ready for whatever Barack Obama’s minions can throw at him.

October 7th, 2011 at 12:31 pm
Assessment of the GOP Race (Short Version)

The GOP presidential nomination campaign is a highly volatile thing, with one exception: No matter what happens, Mitt Romney coasts along in the high teens or low 20s, unmoved in the polls by all the other sturm und drang.Right now it is Herman Cain who, like a super ball, is bouncing extremely high — just as Rick Perry did before him, just as Michelle Bachmann did before that, and just as Cain himself did (to a slightly lesser extent) in the Spring. Of the others in the field, Ron Paul will keep his 10-12 percent of support no matter what, but will never exceed that, and thus has no prayer. Also prayerless are Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, almost certainly Bachmann (who has fallen almost off the map), and others like Buddy Roemer and Fred Karger.

Does that mean it is now a three-way race between Cain, Perry, and Romney? No.

Romney and Perry both have the money and clout to stay in all the way. Cain has mojo going for him, along with a winning personality, but his campaign organization is an absolute mess and he also is finally about to get vetted, for real, for the first time. He may or may not have staying power.

Meanwhile, three others still have a shot. Person one is MYSTERY MAN, meaning a still-possible, as-yet-unknown, entrant into the field. If Cain falls as fast as Bachmann did (not likely, but possible) and if Perry still hobbles along without regaining his polling momentum, there is still room for somebody with a certain profile to enter the race and catch fire. It would need to be somebody already well known or somebody unique. The three who come to mind are, 1) despite his protestations, Jeb Bush; 2) Rudy Giuliani; and 3) Bobby Jindal, once he wins re-election as Louisiana governor on Oct. 22 with about 83 percent of the vote. The latter would need to find a way to gingerly extricate himself from his endorsement of Perry, but he’s clever enough to do it if he wants.

Person two, surprisingly, is Newt Gingrich, who has been slowly and steadily gaining polling strength, returning from the absolute dregs into which he had cast himself with his ill-considered slam of Paul Ryan’s budget followed by sheer mendacity, and then cussedness, about what he had said. Would Republicans really be foolish enough to rally around a man he repeatedly through the years has bashed conservatives in harsh terms, who few people with whom he served in Congress trust entirely, who can be abrasive as heck, who has led the GOP into deep unpopularity in the past, and who has a sordid personal history? Well, some people long have called Republicans “the stupid party.” Gingrich has reinvented himself as everybody’s favorite uncle in the field, and attention spans are so short that a few good debate performances (see: Herman Cain) can make people go gaga no matter what a candidate’s history is.

Longshot-but-still-possible person three is Rick Santorum. Why? Hasn’t he consistently ranked well down in the polling single digits? Yes. But he also is the only one who has performed well in almost every debate. He also is the only one who has outperformed expectations in both major straw polls so far, beating Cain, Perry, Romney and Gingrich in Iowa (finishing fourth overall) and beating Paul, Gingrich and Bachmann in Florida (again finishing fourth overall, with a decent 11 percent of the vote).  And he has a history, on election day, of outperforming expectations. He won in major upsets his races in 1990, 1994, and 2000, and beat another incumbent when redistricted into a district with a Democratic congressman in 1992.

So, the question is, who, if anybody else, can catch fire? Whether Cain stays high, or whether Gingrich, Santorum or Jindal emerges, the main challenger(s) will need to contend with the steady Romney regardless. Stay tuned for more twists and turns.