Gingrich vs. Romney

(3:12 p.m.: Comments begin here.)

Those who support Gingrich support him largely because they think he can take the fight to Obama and win the general election, while Romney, they believe, is too much of a soft Republican moderate to do the same.

It’s time for a reality check.

Let’s put aside our enthusiasms, our fears, our hopes, and our hype, and honestly ask ourselves a couple of very simple questions.

Can one reasonably imagine Mitt Romney losing the election for the presidency? Yes.

Can one reasonably imagine Mitt Romney winning the election for the presidency? Yes.

But can one reasonably imagine Newt Gingrich—Newt Gingrich!—winning the election for the presidency? No. It’s absurd, it’s impossible, it’s an off-the-planet fantasy. [Note: the preceding sentence is too sweeping, and in a comment further down in the entry I retract it.]

If you’re not persuaded of what I’ve just said, ask yourself this: has America ever elected an obviously unstable character as president? No, it hasn’t. Obama, notwithstanding his anti-American leftism, is a stable character. Romney, notwithstanding his unstable policy positions, is eminently a stable character. Gingrich is eminently an unstable character.

Conclusion: if you want the Republican Party to have a reasonable chance of beating Obama next November, you cannot support Gingrich for the nomination.

- end of initial entry -

Paul K. writes:

Furthermore, can one reasonably imagine America accepting as its First Lady the weird, plasticized, age-inappropriate home-wrecker Callista? Michelle has her faults, but she’s Mamie Eisenhower compared to Callista.

David B. writes:

The “conservative” South Carolina Republican primary voters did what they do every four years. They fell over themselves to vote for the worst candidate on the National Question. Do you think they bothered to consider Gingrich’s long-time open borders positions? Of course not.

Naturally, the evangelical vote went Gingrich’s way. This proved everything my liberal friends said during the Clinton impeachment imbroglio. Namely, the Republicans who wanted Clinton thrown out of office for playing around with Monica Lewinsky were nothing but hypocrites.

If anything, Gingrich is worse on the “character” issue than Clinton. At least Bill and Hillary are still officially married.

James N. writes:

Interesting take, as always.

I read an interesting analysis a few days ago that said where you stand on Romney versus Gingrich depends on what you believe must be done to defeat Obama.

If you believe that it is sufficient to convince people that Obama is incompetent, or that he is a basically good man who is in over his head, that Romney is your guy. [LA replies: But your description of Romney is incorrect. He doesn’t just say that Obama is incompetent, or that Obama is a good man in over his head. He repeatedly says that Obama’s aim is to turn America into a European-style, unfree country, and that he, Romney will stop that.]

Alternatively, if you believe that Obama is a bad man, with bad intentions, who must be politically destroyed in order to be defeated, then Gingrich is your guy.

Needless to say, I am in the latter camp. [LA replies: Indeed, I think you are referring to your own analysis, which you have posted at VFR previously.]

And, while I agree that Gingrich is potentially unstable, and that he may falter after defeating Romney, there is always Our Lady …

On a more serious note, I do not believe there is any way in the world that Romney can defeat Obama, and I oppose his nomination on those grounds alone. [LA replies: First you make a reference to Sarah Palin as a possible candidate at this stage, then you continue, “On a more serious note … ” With respect, I must say that I think your reference to Palin at this late stage reveals something about the mindset of the Gingrich supporters. Just as many believed that Palin could win the presidency, you believe that Gingrich could win the presidency. You’re all indulging in this fantasy that Gingrich will be so devastatingly effective against Obama in the debates—probably the one debate they will have—that that will win the election for Gingrich. You seem to have no grasp of what a turn-off Gingrich is to most people, just as you had no grasp of what a turn-off Palin is to most people. A commenter at today said, “What do they mean, Gingrich is unelectable? He won in South Carolina, didn’t he?” That’s the way many conservatives think. They think that if they like someone, the country likes him.]

James N. replies to LA:

I have not heard Romney say that. His victory speech in NH was quite weak on Obama, almost regretting the necessity if his removal. [LA replies: But I’ve heard him say it at least twice in recent debates.]

In fact, in his victory remarks, Romney went so far as to say that on inauguration day, Americans were filled with hope and pride. My default position is that anyone who was filled with hope and pride on the day Obama was inaugurated into office is unqualified for any serious responsibility of any kind. [LA replies: This is ridiculous. You’ve now set up a new standard for who is unacceptable. With all the extremely flawed candidates we have to choose from, meaning that we must accept someone who has many qualities and positions that are highly objectionable to us, you pick out a minor point like this to make Romney totally unacceptable. You don’t think Gingrich said similar things about Obama’s inaugural? Almost certainly he did. In fact, given his record, it’s inconceivable that he didn’t say something like that. So it looks as though Gingrich must be excluded by you along with Romney. And what about traveling around the country doing speaking engagements with Al Sharpton, which Gingrich did? Is that not significantly more unacceptable in your mind than uttering the obligatory bromide that Obama’s inauguration was a day of pride?]

If in fact Romney has spoken as you say, and has identified Obama’s “transformation” as something to be undone, then I could consider supporting him.

However, I do not believe that his skill as a candidate, his self presentation, and his personal history space make it possible for him to defeat Obama. In fact, I think he is uniquely at a loss when dealing with a person such as Obama.

As you know, I decry the tendency to want to have the nomination battle resolved prior to the late summer. For this reason, I think the contested nature of the Republican race is, far from a bad thing, in fact a good thing. I look forward to seeing how matters develop in the months ahead. [LA replies: I agree, and said the same on Friday.]

Steve K. writes:

You say Obama is stable yet Gingrich eminently unstable. You provide no examples of instability. Haven’t some relatively successful world leaders been considered unstable before their time came? I don’t want to make any analogies—there are no perfect analogies—Churchill was eminently unstable in the minds of the British throughout much of his political career, especially during the nineteen thirties when he was a “war-monger” and a “scare-monger.”

Irv P. writes:

We’ve seen many “unthinkables” become reality just in the recent past. The absence of a precedent for an unstable character in the White House, is not a good enough reason at this juncture, to dismiss it as fantasy.

In this day and age, people like us, traditionalists, are so out of the mainstream, we have a very difficult time drawing conclusions about what will happen.

It’s a brave new world Larry, and we’re not really a part of it, except in our little enclaves.

Mitchell B. writes:

It’s time to reject them all, loudly and publicly. None of them have any intention of doing anything to stop our hostile government from finishing the destruction of the U.S. Our government is the enemy of its own country, and all of the candidates are part of that. In other words, ALL of the candidates are afflicted with the politically-correct, self-destructive pathology that is now national policy. The only possible way to break the game wide open at this point is for huge numbers of white people to reject the bill of goods they are trying to sell us. Simply withdraw from the process. The only thing the liars, cheats, and mentally-warped thieves now running the country ever respond to is fear of the public. They are deathly afraid of nonwhites at the moment and they take whites for granted. They think we will continue to rubber-stamp their cowardice and treason. If it somehow becomes clear that huge numbers of white people are simply staying home this election, THAT could lead to us having some options. But the first step is to stop participating in our own destruction by an irrational, hostile government.

LA replies:

I disagree with the commenter. There are a variety of different evils we have to deal with, and as I’ve said before, issues such as legal immigration and the Islamization of the West are not going to be resolved in this election. But other very urgent issues will be. If Obama is re-elected, Obamacare becomes permanent. I think we need to stop the evils that we can stop.

Timothy A. writes:

If Gingrich eventually loses the nomination to Romney but decides to run on a third-party ticket, wouldn’t the 2012 presidential election look quite a bit like the 1912 election? The sober, conservative, businessman’s favorite Romney (Taft); the haughty, professorial leftist Obama (Wilson); and the unhinged, firebrand, ideas man Gingrich (Roosevelt).

Jared writes:

What makes Newt Gingrich so obviously unstable that he automatically becomes unelectable? Why say that America has never elected an unstable character as president? You don’t even need to look far back to find Clinton dealing with the Paula Jones sexual harassment case during his first term. He was later elected to a second term by the American public without regard for this clear character flaw. Remember, he did pay her off to drop the appeal. I doubt the average American would hear about that settlement and assume Clinton was completely innocent. How about the fact that his approval ratings were through the roof after leaving office? This came after the public clearly was aware of his instability. The numbers were through the roof even after an impeachment! [LA replies: Clinton was a major sexual transgressor; he should not have been elected, and he should have been removed. But his slimy personal character is not the same thing as being unstable in his public conduct.]

Why do you think today’s average American really cares so deeply about character? Times have changed. The truth is that Gingrich is absolutely electable in today’s America. Those who will ultimately elect our next president care about the economy, period. Gingrich speaks to them with a confidence and an understanding of history that Romney just doesn’t have. This is why Romney relies so heavily on the private sector vs. Washington routine. His background in the private sector allows him to at least compete with Gingrich on the economy. Gingrich has ideas that get people thinking and most importantly, he sticks it to the media. His retaliation against attacks from the left wing media are being very well received, which is a HUGE positive right now. More people in America need to see clear examples of media bias and have someone like Newt articulate those examples to them so they can start thinking for themselves.

Gingrich is not afraid to admit he isn’t perfect, but he also conveys to the public that he’s changed on a character level. True or not, many people are certainly willing to believe it. Newt would annihilate Obama in a debate and there would be nothing the moderators can do to stop it. I know many people think Obama is a skilled orator and debater. I agree. But he would still get stomped by Newt. That’s what voters need to see. I’m definitely living in reality and I see Gingrich with a very legitimate chance against Obama, should he become the nominee.

Paul K. writes:

Jared writes, “Newt would annihilate Obama in a debate and there would be nothing the moderators can do to stop it. I know many people think Obama is a skilled orator and debater. I agree. But he would still get stomped by Newt. That’s what voters need to see.”

First, I’m sure Obama is shrewd enough to deny Gingrich many opportunities to stomp him. Furthermore, among the swing voters, who react emotionally to candidates more than ideologically, such a stomping would not redound to Newt’s benefit. Among those voters, a charming Obama singing a few bars of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” is worth more than three hours of pompous Newt pontificating on American history. They want to like their president.

Also, I’d like to make an observation about the January 19 debate, when Gingrich “hit it out of the park” after CNN’s John King asked about the breakup of his marriage. In the course of his response, Gingrich said, “Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things.”

Gingrich seems to suggest that he went through personal pain and King is picking at the wound. But of course it was Newt who put OTHER people through pain—he was the victimizer, not the victim. He cannot then ask for sympathy.

LA replies:

Gingrich supporters are not irrational in everything they say, but they are clearly irrational when they speak like drunken football fans about how Gingrich will “annihilate” Obama in the debates and thus win the election, a remark I’ve seen over and over again, at this site and elsewhere. That is not reason speaking, it is riled-up passion speaking.

Whenever people, with great confidence and energy, make absolute predictions about unknowable future events (such as what will happen in a debate between Gingrich and Obama), that is a sure sign that they are being carried away by emotion or by some psychological need to feel in control of things. Look at all the absolute predictions that have been made during this campaign. Remember how people were declaring last year in tones of absolute assurance that when Gov. Perry entered the race he would effortlessly wipe out his rivals and win the presidency? And many other similarly assured predictions have been given which did not work out. Yet the people who made these incorrect predictions never seem to learn anything from them, and just rush on to the next prediction.

My favorite example of this is John Podhoretz saying in his New York Post column after George Bush won the Iowa primary in 2000, that the race was over, Bush was going to be the nominee, period. Then, two weeks later, when McCain beat Bush by 17 points in New Hampshire, Podhoretz wrote that the race was over, McCain would be the nominee, period.

LA continues:
Now maybe I am guilty of the very assurance I was just criticizing. At the beginning of this entry I wrote:

But can one reasonably imagine Newt Gingrich—Newt Gingrich!—winning the election for the presidency? No. It’s absurd, it’s impossible, it’s an off-the-planet fantasy.

There are two different statements contained in that paragraph. One is that it is unreasonable to expect that Gingrich will win the presidency, the other is that it’s impossible that Gingrich will win the presidency. I will retract the second statement. It’s not absolutely impossible that he will win. Anything can happen, and, as Irv said, in this crazy age all rules seem suspended. But I still say that Gingrich’s election as president is not a reasonable likelihood.

Brandon F. writes:

I am saying again, I am shouting this, Romney’s religion is why he is not winning this thing right out. No one will say it. It is a strange religion and Evangelicals see it as more evil than the Whore Of Babylon as they refer to the Catholic Church.

Of course CNN handed him [Gingrich?] South Carolina. Gingrich was ready and he slathered bloody red meat on the voracious media-hating right. That tactic will not work in the general election. Gingrich is a disaster and I honestly think, and I normally refrain from saying things like this, you must be a damn fool to vote for him.

January 23

LA writes:

Yesterday Steve K. and Jared asked for evidence of Gingrich’s instability. I was disheartened by their demand that I spell out something for which there is overwhelming evidence which I’ve presented in numerous previous entries, and which many other writers have discussed as well. Expressing disbelief at the assertion that Gingrich is an erratic character is like expressing disbelief at the assertion that O.J. Simpson murdered Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Nevertheless, just so Steve and Jared won’t feel that I’m ignoring them or that I have no answer to them, I’ve once against posted information on this point.

January 25

Jared writes:

I agree with you that Gingrich is certainly not the most stable public figure, but is he obviously unstable to a point where he becomes completely unelectable to the average person? I responded to this post primarily because I completely disagreed with your point that it was not reasonable to argue that Gingrich could defeat Obama and become the next president. I still disagree with that point.

The rest of America is not paying attention the way you and most of your readers are. You don’t need to understand what runs through the mind of an undecided voter, but it’s important to remember that most of them do not have one percent of your political knowledge base or understanding of history. If people had just a small portion of the knowledge that flows through this site, the state of the country might be dramatically improved.

I was compared to a drunken football fan because I suggested Gingrich would annihilate Obama in a debate. My motive for making such a suggestion was psychoanalyzed. [LA replies: My comment was not directed at you personally. I was making a general observation about a behavior shown by many conservatives. If I wrote it in a way that made it seem that it was about you, I shouldn’t have done that.] Maybe that sentence should have been “I think” or “I hope” that Gingrich will annihilate Obama in a debate. It doesn’t matter. Statements like these are made all the time and they don’t necessarily come from a need to feel in control. Being passionate isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe it was just a statement of belief rather than an absolute prediction. There is plenty of reason behind it given his talents as a speaker and a debater.

Another reader says “you must be a damn fool” to vote for Gingrich. Ability to process information gets called into question because it may not be completely apparent that Newt’s instability disqualifies him from a shot at the presidency. lefty’s use these types of tactics when they get into arguments. [LA replies: Reader Brandon F. wrote: “I normally refrain from saying things like this, you must be a damn fool to vote for him.” I felt he was making a statement directed at Gingrich supporters generally, not at anyone posting at VFR in particular. As a general policy, I do not readers to insult each other. I gave Brandon more leeway in this case than I normally would do, because I wanted to let readers express their passions on this subject. I probably should have edited his comment to soften it.]

Clinton displayed public instability (not just flawed character). He was in public office when he lied to America about Lewinsky. [LA replies: But his lie was effective: it saved his presidency. So I don’t think that I would call that unstable behavior.] He was in public office (literally) when he conducted sexual affairs with a White House intern. He left the White House with sky high approval ratings. We just have different interpretations of what constitutes an eminently unstable politician. When a President of the United States of America uses the oval office for adulterous intern sex during his term, I find that to be an example of instability. [LA replies: Clinton’s sex life was disordered, but his general conduct of himself as president, as objectionable as it was, was not unstable or erratic per se. He was not turning into a different person every day and changing his direction every day, as Gingrich does. That’s what I meant by unstable or erratic.]

I respect and agree with much of what is said here, but I try to view things the way a common American voter would and I see Newt’s talents creating more passion in people that can perhaps later be molded into actual conservatism. The damage has already been done. At this point, any true conservative progress comes in baby steps. Real improvement can only come over a long stretch of time. It’s important that we remove Obama from the White House and Newt has some qualities (delivery, presentation, ideas, fire) that might be able to wake people up. He turned the polls in SC upside down by going after the media and doing well in the debates, even as news of the ex-wife interview was leaked.

The man has a realistic shot with undecided voters.

January 26

Jared replies:

Points well taken.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 22, 2012 08:23 AM | Send

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