January 29th, 2012

The character issue and the fighters

I don’t know about you, but to me, this doesn’t seem like the best approach for Newt.

And Ed Morrissey agrees:

…[I]t seems unwise for Gingrich to play the character card. Throughout his campaign, the subtext of Gingrich’s pitch is that his personal baggage — all of which redounds to character — is irrelevant in a campaign where ideology and fighting temperament matter most. As the Rasmussen polls showed the last couple of weeks, Gingrich scores very low on the character questions even among the Republican base. Even in a poll where Gingrich led nationally, he came in dead last in the current roster of four contenders for the Republican nomination on character — even below “Not Sure.”

Why would Gingrich pick a fight on the issue of character? Granted, he’s not talking about things like faithfulness to a wife vs. philandering, but even on the issue of campaign “lies” his own are pretty glaring.

Gingrich should play to his own strengths, not his weaknesses. He seemed to understand that at the beginning, but now he’s lost all focus in his rage.

The general perception has been that Gingrich’s major strength is as a fighter. And to give him his props, there’s no question that he has been, both in the sense of general pugnaciousness and of specific battles he fought when Speaker. He stood up not only to Democrats in the House and to President Clinton, but sometimes to those in his own party—although in the end they prevailed and successfully pressured him to resign.

And yet it’s a paradox that, as a campaigner, Gingrich actually didn’t have to use those combat skills very often. He ran in a conservative district in which the only real question at the outset (1974) was whether the public would choose a conservative Democrat (20-year incumbent Jack Flynt) or a conservative Republican (Gingrich). They chose the Democrat, and then they chose him again in 1976 by an even greater margin, although compared to his scarce Republican predecessors (Flynt had often run unopposed) Gingrich did pretty well.

But in 1978 Gingrich got lucky; Flynt finally retired and Newt won. After that, Gingrich was an incumbent member of the House from a South that was increasingly Republican, and from a district that was Republican as well. He seems to have never faced an election challenge worth mentioning after that except in 1990, when he almost lost again (although I can’t find any background on why that one was more difficult). So, although Gingrich was elected eleven straight times after those first two losses, he may be quite untested in the sense of being unused to tough campaigns. One thing for sure: were he to be nominated, he would be very unused to fighting for a win in a campaign against a liberal incumbent such as Obama, in a national election in which he would have to appeal to someone other than conservatives.

Now you might say Romney is quite untested, too, although to win as a Republican in Massachusetts is always somewhat of a test. But “tough and combative candidate” is not the way Romney has been billed in the first place. The fact that Gingrich is now reduced to sputtering rage at how tough and mean Romney is being to him is just as likely to help Romney as Gingrich right now—perhaps more so. It makes Romney seem to be more of an alpha-male and Gingrich less of one.

Those who criticize Romney often like to say that Romney could never be tough enough to fight Obama. But Romney seems to be standing up to Gingrich rather well and keeping his cool. Gingrich to Romney, not so much. And if Gingrich can’t stand up to Romney, how in the world will he ever stand up to Obama?

[NOTE: More here.]

9 Responses to “The character issue and the fighters”

  1. foxmarks Says:

    Gingrich points at the bigger question. What are the character requirements for a President?

    Washington certainly had some baser vices, but he is the paragon of Presidential character. Lincoln had crippling personality flaws, but he is also a paragon.

    Newt has to put this character stuff into big-picture context in regard to the office. Because, yes, as a neighbor or suitor for one’s daughter, Newt’s character stinks.

    If Gingrich pulls off the nomination, he will present nice contrast to the cool-cold Obama. But then, Obama could make Romney appear zealous.

  2. NeoConScum Says:

    I very strongly agree with Morrissey & neoneocon. His character, wiring, TEMPERAMENT, neediness, infantile defiance, dishonesty, whimsy, lousy impulse control…Shall I go on? Simply put, they are awaiting the full force of the MSM Lapdogs and the Obama Machine with its endless war chest.

    His fan, friend and talk-radio ally, Mike Gallagher, was in full Mikey Whine this a.m. Mitt is way ahead in the polling here in Central Florida and the Newties are shreiking that Mitt Romney has instituted a “Blood Bath” campaign against the delicate & well spoken Gingrich. God, I love to hear a Punk–and that’s what Gallagher is–cry and whimper in the morning.

  3. rickl Says:

    There is no way Romney will go after Obama with the same zeal he’s used against his Republican competitors. It’s McCain all over again. Ruthlessly attack conservatives; behave gentlemanly towards the Democrats.

  4. Oldflyer Says:

    I was a little excited about Newt during the early debates. I thought that he had undergone some introspection, and was emerging with a new character to complement his impressive grasp of issues. He has seriously disappointed.

    Life is full of disappointments; but, we must shrug them off and move on.

    Despite the bleatings of Limbaugh, and like minded ideological hard liners, we are essentially left with one viable candidate. Despite some media efforts to spin otherwise, Santorum, an admirable fellow, isn’t going to cut it. For starters, he simply has no leadership credentials to point to. Being a nice guy; having well-informed, but theoretical knowledge of the issues; and wanting to be President just isn’t enough. Nor is the the mythical perfect candidate going to emerge from the mists.

    So, the competent, cool, “conservative enough”, Mitt is going to do battle with Obama. The sooner the “base” wakes up to the facts, the better.

  5. rickl Says:

    Yes, Newt shouldn’t bring up the subject of character. He looks pretty foolish doing so.

    But a Romney nomination will destroy the Republican Party.

  6. NeoConScum Says:

    rickl..”..Romney nomination will destroy the Republican Party.”

    WHAT..? Alice is stuck in that darn Bunny Hole,’Yo.

  7. foxmarks Says:

    “a Romney nomination will destroy the Republican Party”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing…

    “we are essentially left with one viable candidate”

    You must be thinking of Ron Paul. Romney will lose to Obama, as Santorum has identified. Paul is the only other GOP prospect who polls within range of Obama.

    Nice that 3 of 4 GOP finalists actually do have sound personal character. And the other guy is the best fighter.

  8. rickl Says:

    I think that Paul would win more votes among independents, young people, and disaffected Democrats than the other three combined.

    I saw a comment somewhere recently that said if Paul ran as an independent, he could actually end up hurting Obama more than the Republican, for the above reasons. No way are young hipsters going to vote for Gingrich, Romney, or Santorum. They would end up defaulting to Obama or staying home. But if Paul was in the mix, it could be a different story.

  9. John Says:

    It’s my understanding that the reason Newt nearly lost in 1992 was because he was embroiled in some kind of check kiting scandal that took down a lot of house members (I was nine when that election happened, so I don’t remember it). It appears that he was also a redistricting victim that year.

    From Wikipedia: As a result of the 1990 United States Census, Georgia picked up an additional seat for the 1992 U.S. House elections. However, the Democratic-controlled Georgia General Assembly eliminated the district that Gingrich represented, splitting its territory among three neighboring districts. Much of the southern portion of Gingrich’s district, including his home in Carrollton, was drawn into the Columbus-based 3rd District, represented by five-term Democrat Richard Ray. At the same time, the Assembly created a new, heavily Republican 6th District in Fulton and Cobb counties in the wealthy northern suburbs of Atlanta—an area that Gingrich had never represented. However, Gingrich sold his home in Carrollton and moved to Marietta in the new 6th. His primary opponent, State Representative Herman Clark, made an issue out of Gingrich’s 22 kited checks in the House Bank Scandal and also criticized Gingrich for moving into the district. After a recount Gingrich prevailed by 980 votes, or a 51% to 49% result[34]—all but assuring him of election in November. He was reelected three times from this district against only nominal Democratic opposition.

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