What an interesting weekend

23 Jan

Newt Gingrich pulled off an astonishing comeback to beat Mitt Romney in South Carolina.

The Republican Party now faces a wrenching and lengthy period of soul-searching.

Can either of these jokers beat President Obama?

Down and stumbling, Romney is still the front-runner for the GOP nomination and by all conventional measures, is best equipped to push Obama from office.

But he’s now lost two of three races and leaves South Carolina tarnished.

Everything that has happened to him has played into Democratic plans to portray him as a cold-hearted, flip-flopping, fat cat who would say or do anything to get elected.

Back to Gingrich:
An unabashed egoist (“I think grandiose thoughts”) who likes to compare himself to historic figures including Abraham Lincoln, Charles de Gaulle, the Duke of Wellington, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

He might soon add Jesus Christ to that list.

Abandoned by his staff last spring and written off by the GOP establishment in Iowa, Gingrich’s record is a testament both to his resilience and volatility.

Republicans who worked the closest with Gingrich while he was House Speaker — a tenure marked by extraordinary success and failure — call him brilliant thinker but an insufferably moody leader.

Many of them are against his presidential candidacy.

Rick Santorum, who considers Gingrich a mentor, nonetheless put his finger on why most members of the GOP establishment believe Newt would be a poor general election candidate.

And a worse president.

“Newt’s a friend, I love him. But at times you just sort of have that worrisome moment that something’s going to pop. And we can’t afford that in a nominee.”

Something’s going to pop.

Is it any wonder that Republican leaders in Washington and across the country are starting to consider once-unthinkable scenarios?

The first is this will come down to a two-man race between Romney and Gingrich that could go one of two ways: Mercifully short, essentially ending in Florida if Romney thumps Gingrich in that January 31st primary, or terribly long if Gingrich wins or narrowly loses Florida.

Either way, Romney wins.

Most Republican strategists put the odds of Romney claiming the nomination at 80 percent or so.

There’s a second scenario: Gingrich seizes the GOP nomination after an insurgent campaign that defies virtually every political convention.

Keep this in mind: The Republican Party and American politics in general have rarely been as convention-bending as they are now.

If Herman Cain can transform a book tour into a front-running presidential campaign, if Donald Trump can take a turn atop GOP polls, if Sarah Palin must be taken seriously, how can anyone write off Gingrich.

One looks at that list and begins to question the taste and common sense of the American voter.

Regardless of that Donald Trump says, it’s too late for a savior to enter the primary-and-caucus fight.

Republicans leaders are starting to talk informally about a brokered convention that could give rise to the nomination of Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels or any of the other GOP heavyweights who passed up the campaign.

Don’t bet on that happening.

We’d put the odds at about 10 percent.

If we go back to 1992, Democrats wasted weeks in sweaty hand-wringing as Bill Clinton struggled to survive controversies over an extramarital affair and his efforts to evade the Vietnam War draft.

There were whispers of late entries by Al Gore, Bill Bradley and other Democratic stars who had sat out the campaign.

And the media churned out stories predicting a brokered convention.

Back then, Clinton was seen as a “fatally flawed candidate.”

The difference between Clinton in 1992 and Gingrich today is that nobody who worked with Clinton worried about his suitability for office.
Many worry about Gingrich’s.

A week ago, Gingrich was virtually an after-thought as Romney turned victories in Iowa and New Hampshire into a double-digit lead in South Carolina polls.

But then the wheels came off: a recount gave Iowa to Santorum; Rick Perry dropped out and endorsed Gingrich; and Romney said more than $300,000 in speaking fees was “not much money”.

The race now moves to Florida and the size and diversity of that state favors Romney in many ways.

Caucuses in Nevada, Colorado and Minnesota favor the highly organized campaigns of Romney and Paul.

The only two February primaries take place on Romney-friendly turf.
A sizable number of fellow Mormans live in Arizona and Michigan is his home state.

Gingrich doesn’t have the time, the platform or the money to build a national organization to rival Romney’s.

Gingrich isn’t even eligible for Virginia’s 46 delegates because his nascent campaign failed to submit enough valid signatures to get on the ballot.

Each candidate comes with a bag full of negatives.
While many voters have doubts about Obama, human nature is to stick with the devil-you-know, rather than the one you don’t.

That’s the Obama strategy in a nutshell.

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