Last night’s debate sure doesn’t appear to have helped Mitt Romney or the GOP Establishment. Nate Silver reports that the immediate reaction – as measured by Intrade – is that Romney’s chances of snagging the nomination are thought to have declined by 2.8%, while Newt’s went up 4.2%:
And that illustrates the danger to Mitt Romney of simply holding on and hoping that Gingrich implodes. Mitt himself is not known for running a flawless campaign, and the conventional wisdom shaping up today is that last night’s offer to bet Rick Perry $10,000 over whether some particular wording can be found in his book was a boner.
Additionally, it isn’t a viable strategy to just keep running and simply hope that Newt trips himself up, if for no other reason than it takes Romney’s ability to win out of his own hands and gives it over to Newt. But Romney faces the dilemma that every presumptive nominee running on an “inevitability platform” faces when he or she is suddenly confronted with a strong, credible opponent: if Romney attacks Newt too aggressively, he calls attention to the fact that his nomination is not in fact “inevitable.” That can only elevate Newt in the eyes of Republican voters.
So I’d bet that Romney now is planning to release all his opposition research on Newt to reliable GOP Establishment mouthpieces, with the intention that they hobble Newt for him. It’s probably his best strategy, but it’s by no means a guaranteed winner.
First, I seriously doubt Romney’s opposition research found anything that isn’t already known about the Gingrinch. Attacking Newt on his ethical failures, his serial adulteries, or any past policy position isn’t going to be breaking news, it’s just going to be an attack. But the Crazies like Newt, they’re more than prepared to forgive his past failures, and there isn’t any former policy position a Republican politician can embrace that he cannot subsequently walk back. I mean, seriously – just ask Mitt Romney.
Second, I stand by my assertion that the GOP Establishment mouthpieces will quickly walk back any attacks on Newt and rally ‘round him if the Republican base voters make it clear that he is their preferred candidate – which, barring a Newt meltdown, they will.
Inveterate hack George Will certainly is no fan of Newt, writing last week that Gingrich is “the least conservative candidate” because of his “anti-conservative confidence that he has a comprehensive explanation of, and plan to perfect, everything.”
But there is so much wrong with that idea! Republican base voters simply don’t care about “conservatism” as understood by George Will. Not for them a sense of humbleness, a prostration before the ineffable mystery of Life, and therefore a due and proper respect for established institutions. No, these people understand “conservatism” to mean complete self-confidence, the kind it takes to climb into a jump suit and swagger around an aircraft carrier with a bulging crotch-shot before declaring “Mission Accomplished.” They loved that shit when Pres. Jr. rolled it out.
If Republicans actually preferred a cautious, judicious examination of the facts, a weighing of opinions and options, and then a reasoned decision to act, they’d be voting for Obama!
And if they decide that Goddamnit! Newt Gingrich is the one for them, then George Will – bless his tiny, barely beating, shrink-wrapped heart – is suddenly going to start talking about how much better a Gingrich presidency would be than would be four more years of Obama. Because there isn’t a chance in hell that George Will is ever going to publicly admit that he doesn’t know what the fuck he is talking about, and that he no longer speaks for the Republican Party.