Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gingrich: The new Clown Prince of the GOP circus

The Republican presidential field is so screwed up and incompetent, even a buffoon like Rick Perry can climb to the top of the polls. And like Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann before him, a series of gaffes and just plain strange behavior has brought him crashing down.

After Perry stumbled, Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, rose to the top. He came up with the bold “9-9-9” tax plan that was so stupid it almost made Perry look competent. Even though conservatives realized that his tax plan wouldn't work, Cain rode high in the polls just because he wasn't Mitt Romney, and people liked his straight talk. He continued to stay on top of the polls by the Republican voters, who seemed to be saying: “He's stupid, but so are we.”

Bold idiotic solutions and plain talk, however, could not keep Cain on top. After allegations of sexual harassment surfaced, Cain's promise to keep a “hands-on” approach to politics took on a whole new meaning.

Cain's fall from grace has caused the GOP to find another anybody-but-Mitt-Romney candidate. This time, it's former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. After surviving Trump, Bachmann, Perry and Cain, you would think that Romney might start capitalizing on all the craziness going on around him and begin to build the support needed to capture the nomination. After all, he is the candidate with the best match-up numbers against Obama.

Although Romney's been holding steady at or near the top of the polls, he is not liked by the base of his party. Many leaders in the GOP seem to want to throw the election rather than see Romney as president, and then try again in 2016. The main problem is that many Republicans are distrustful of his recent public reversals on gun control, abortion and gay rights. And then there's the health care overhaul law that he pushed through as governor of Massachusetts, which is similar to Obama's.

The rise of Gingrich is surprising because he was written off as recently as last spring. He is a polarizing figure, often controversial and prone to contradictory statements. Obama would love to run against Gingrich, who would most likely self-destruct over the course of a presidential campaign. However, it seems unlikely that his bid for the nomination will survive the close inspection given a newly appointed front-runner. That's been the problem for the other GOP rejects.

The common thread running through this highly unusual campaign season has been the series of gaffes, inconsistencies, and inept behavior by all the candidates, even though Romney kept the gaffes to a minimum. And although Romney may look presidential, his proclivity to change sides on seemingly every issue has not helped his cause. The only reason Romney has remained consistently near the top of the polls is because he has stayed under the radar. In other words, he has had solid debate performances and no meltdowns regarding the location of Libya or how many women he has groped.

Gingrich has a few personal and political problems to overcome. Most recently, reports have surfaced that he received $1.6 million in political consulting fees from the embattled mortgage giant Freddie Mac, one of his favorite targets on the campaign trail. However, there is one major difference between Gingrich and the other challengers to Romney. He has been around for a long time, and he may be many things, not all of them good. But politically inept definitely isn't one of them, which is what separates Gingrich from Bachmann, Cain, et al.

Being the front-runner has put a spotlight on Gingrich's stance on immigration, an issue he raised during the recent GOP debate. He broke from the majority of his party when he called for “humane” treatment for otherwise law-abiding immigrants who have been in the United States for decades, establishing deep family and community ties.

The GOP response to Gingrich's compassionate position on immigration was swift, and some conservatives asserted that he had wounded his candidacy, perhaps fatally. The position Gingrich took on immigration has proven to be political risky for Republicans trying to appeal to the party's conservative base. Rick Perry had to apologize for saying that critics of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants “did not have a heart”. So much for compassion. There doesn't seem to be much room for that in the Republican party.

Gingrich may have upset his base, but he's not stupid, and he has stood by his position, with no apologies. What looked at first like a debate gaffe has, on closer inspection, seemed to be a calculated tactic to draw a contrast with Romney, who has been tough on immigration while running for president, but not so much when he wasn't. While Romney is taking the politically expedient immigration stance, Gingrich's aides say that he was saying the same thing at forums and town halls long before he was running for president.

It's getting late in the campaign season – just a month-and-a-half remain until the Iowa caucuses – so it's possible that the weakest field of candidates in memory may come down to Romney and Gingrich.

If Gingrich is to have any chance, he needs to transform his image. He's been married three times, and some Republicans think that this alone could disqualify him. But there are also the contradictions and reversals in his record, including past support for an individual health insurance mandate and for government action to combat climate change. These things make him seem just as inconsistent as Romney, the notorious flip-flopper. And Gingrich isn't helping himself by waffling on the nature of his services to Freddie Mac, where he received the aforementioned $1.6 million for doing nothing more than lending his name for political purposes.

Even with his excess baggage, Gingrich is the only candidate to seriously challenge Romney who doesn't seem deranged or just plain stupid. He's able to give a speech without sounding drunk, unlike Perry, and can hold his own at a debate, unlike Perry and just about everyone else. So Gingrich may have a chance at the nomination, unlike the previous front-runners who have crashed and burned.

Obama is vulnerable in 2012 because of the economy, and there is little expectation that it will improve significantly. The President, however, has the advantage of being the incumbent, has had recent success in foreign policy, and has been looking more presidential since last summer's debt ceiling debacle. The fact that the polls show the actual candidates scoring lower than a “generic” Republican when matched against Obama shows that maybe the Republicans just don't have a qualified candidate running.

While the Republican party continues to lose credibility with every debate, Obama continues to do his job quietly and without much fanfare. The fact that he's been blocked by Congress on pretty much every major piece of legislation is bad for the country, but the approval rating for Congress is in single-digit territory, and that's a good sign for Obama. Although his own ratings are not great, the fact that the Republican party has failed to come up with a nominee who is a viable alternative is good news indeed for Obama.

While Obama waits for Gingrich to push the self-destruct button – as have all the previous Republican front-runners – he is waiting for Romney to be the last man standing, and is preparing for that. Is Gingrich the Clown Prince of the GOP circus, or is he a contender? Regardless of the answer, the President can relax and enjoy his holiday season knowing that the Republican Party may have run out of options.


  1. Are you telling me GOP has run out of clowns? Obama is definitely enjoying the spectacle. The recent failure of the "super committee" is another example of Congress not doing its job. Obama can laugh all the way to the polls.

  2. definitely happy holidays for Obama!

  3. Romney will win the GOP nomination by default. The rest of the candidates are obviously not qualified, and the voters will come to their senses.

    A Romney-Obama matchup will still favor Obama. The GOP debates have done nothing more than shown the weaknesses of the candidates, and the "circus" surrounding the proceedings is diluting the party as a whole.

    Romney is the best of a really bad field, and even his strengths are being hidden in this media circus. With the focus on all the fringe candidates, starting with Trump, and now Gingrich, Romney has been unable or unwilling to put much of a campaign together.

    Assuming Romney is the winner of the GOP nomination, his history of changing positions will be his downfall, even though he is the best and smartest of the field.

    Romney has shown that he is able to go debate after debate without a major gaffe. But that is really Romney's weakness...He tries so hard not to say anything that will not be popular.

    I give Gingrich credit for speaking out on the immigration issue, but he has tried to soften his tone a bit, realizing that he is, in fact, an actual candidate, a fact that seems to have taken even him by surprise.

    Romney is trying to make a last attempt at bringing the base of the GOP over to his side, and he will definitely be the last man standing. But out of this weak group of candidates, that's not saying much.

  4. Romney is the only candidate who can beat Obama, and that's why Obama has been preparing for him. Gingrich and Romney are both skilled debaters, so that is why at this point they are two at the top of the polls. The debates have exposed weaknesses in most of the other candidates that can't be overcome, and the thought of Perry debating Obama is why Perry dropped in polls so quickly, and why he can't come back. That applies to most of the other candidates as well. Romney may not be the first choice of the Republican party now, but in the end, Gingrich will be seen as being unelectable and Romney will get the nomination. He will be a formidable oponent just because he will be able to hold his own in a debate with Obama. With the economy the way it is, voters may overlook Romney's record of changing positions, and things like the Massachussetts health law, and come to the conclusion that with all of Romney's faults, change is better than no change, and we'd be better without Obama.

  5. Yikes, so now it's down to Gingrich and Romney? It looks like the Republicans will have to choose between the evil of two lessers.

  6. Romney is ahead in some polls against Obama...It could all come down to the Independents.

  7. There are more debates coming up, so expect a few gaffes, flip-flops, and belly-laughs from the candidates. Gingrich has positioned himself well by coming up at this late date, but it's not impossible for someone without all the excess baggage, like John Huntsman, for instance, to make a move. Although Huntsman is very low in the polling, Cain and Gingrich both came from relatively nowhere, so it's not impossible for a lesser candidate, even though time is running out.

    Romney probably has the best chance against President Obama, so the Republican party may just look past the problems it has with him. On the other hand, it sure does look like they want to give up and try again in 2016. Either way, the Republican have done a lot of damage, no help from the Tea Party.

  8. It looks like Herman Cain is just about finished, so look for his votes to go to Gingrich. Romney still gets no respect from the Republicans.

  9. Please...No more debates!!!!

  10. Cain drops out of the race, and is expected to endorse someone shortly. I don't think an endorsement from Cain is going to help any of the remaining candidates.