First my condolences to Baltimore fans everywhere on the Ravens heartbreaking loss Sunday – and my apologies for exploiting it in this not so clever segue. A great effort, and whether one focuses in on the pass that Lee Evans couldn’t hold on to in the end zone or the last second field goal attempt shanked by Billy Cundiff, the Patriots still won 23-20. Monday morning quarterbacking allows us sports fanatics to let off some steam and even makes us feel better - a phenomenon we Chicago Cubs fans relearn year after year. But the bottom line, post-pontificating doesn’t change the end result, unless of course you’re a GOP presidential candidate and your name is Newt Gingrich.
In what can only be described as an old-fashioned ass-whupping, Gingrich won last weekend’s South Carolina Primary by an astounding 12 points. A week ago the thought of such a result was at best a pipe-dream, even among Gingrich disciples. Yet Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, recipient of $1.6 million from Freddie Mac and $10 million in PAC funds in the last three weeks from one source,(the Adelsons), adulterer and thrice married - somehow convinced South Carolina primary voters that he was a Washington outsider and a non big money, conservative, family values type of guy.
Newt accomplished this by first tapping into the “anger” of the South Carolinian electorate. Pick your topic or issue, Gingrich knows what’s wrong and he articulates the “problems” exceedingly well. Secondly – and here’s the magic - he’s also brilliant in historical hindsight. The quintessential Monday morning quarterback, Newt may make you feel better with his after the fact genius, but the end result is still the same. That he positions himself as the solution or even savior, all the more amazing, considering he’s a walking talking example of the problem.
Needless to say, former front runner Mitt Romney is reeling – besides South Carolina, he officially lost in Iowa and now his tax returns have been made public. (Unsurprisingly, the $20+ million Romney “earned” in each of the last two years was investment income not wages – not a bad gig if you can get it. My point is not to belittle Romney for the income, but rather question the “strategy” of making his wealth an issue.)
As evidenced by Monday night’s debate, Romney and his campaign team have decided to go “toe to toe” with Gingrich. In theory this is the right idea, but unfortunately in practice, slugging it out with Baby Huey may be simply above and beyond Romney’s capabilities. And to be fair, there aren’t many who could play and win with “Newt’s rules”. (Also attempting to list Newt’s faults in one breath – as Mitt attempted to do – is impossible. Nobody has that kind of lung capacity.) For as we’ve learned, Newt either makes things up or simply denies the historical past – all the while talking about how brilliant he is. What Romney does well is appear aloof and condescending, particularly with that spooky grin of his. And what he needs to do – just a suggestion mind you – is to goad Newt and then allow Huey to punch himself out.
One simple case in point, Gingrich’s highly lucrative connection to Freddie Mac and whatever self-designated role he assigned himself there – historian, consultant, grand pooh-bah or resident genius. According to Newt, he alone foresaw the mortgage default debacle and the ensuing financial crisis, yet no one listened to him – in fact no one seems to have heard him. And there’s the rub and Romney’s opportunity. Gingrich either didn’t predict the crisis or he did and was ignored. If he wants to point the finger of blame at all the folks on Capitol Hill he “talked to”, well that sounds a whole lot like lobbying. The point that Romney needs to make is that in a moment of crisis, “Leaders lead and they’re not ignored.” End of discussion. Gingrich’s “Amazing Kreskin” moment is either fabricated or he couldn’t carry the day in preventing the mortgage disaster. Neither conclusion sounds very “transformational” to me, but rather very mundane.
If Newt sounds “good” on the campaign trail, well that’s his point. The man has been stumping for “savior of the world” for years now. Regardless of how much you “believe” of Mrs. Gingrich’s, (#2), interview from last week, the Newt quote, “People want to hear what I have to say. It doesn’t matter what I do.”, rings eerily true. Personally I never thought he’d go this far, but yet Newt’s still here – and rising. What I find most disconcerting – even downright scary – is that I am in full agreement with Ann Coulter, who thinks that Newt is not only unelectable, but unfit for office. Yikes!
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