Photo: Courtesy of CNN
Newt Gingrich was centre stage at the Republican debate Tuesday, taking full advantage of the increased airtime that comes with his recent surge to the top of national polls. If you are just tuning in tot the 2012 presidential horse race, the Republican nomination probably looks like it’s Gingrich’s to lose. Frontrunner status apparently agrees with the former House Speaker, whose debate performance Tuesday was notably lacking in the curmudgeonly Gingrichisms that have defined his past debates.
In a race defined by whiplash, it is not surprising that Gingrich is getting a second look from GOP voters desperate for a candidate who is not Mitt Romney. As the rest of the contenders crash and burn, Gingrich is, miraculously, the last man standing after having been abandoned as political roadkill just a few months ago.
But like the Rick Perry and Herman Cain boomlets that came before him, the Gingrich bubble is destined to pop.
That’s because the Gingrich ‘boomlet’ doesn’t actually exist. The surge is propelled not by Gingrich’s strengths as a candidate, but by the fact that he is a better alternative to his gaffe-prone and often incoherent 2012 rivals. The weakness of the GOP field has now apparently acted as a blow to the head of Republican voters, who have collectively forgotten why they never liked Gingrich in the first place.
Luckily, we remember.
Here’s a list of Gingrich’s most glaring flaws:
He is mean. In his former political life, Gingrich was kind of a bully, known for his willingness to burn bridges and accuse his opponents of treason. Perhaps most famously, he was responsible for leading the relentless personal attacks against President Bill Clinton (which turned out to be kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.) Now on his comeback tour, Gingrich clearly hasn’t lost his bite. Gingrich’s favourite target these days is the media — woe to the debate moderator who gets in his rhetorical line of fire. He’s also gone after the “reactionary, socialist” Congressional Budget Office and “stupid” Americans who don’t want to privatize Social Security — and that was just yesterday.
He is high-maintenance. As House Speaker, Gingrich had a penchant for melodrama and polarization that made him the most unpopular man in American politics, and eventually led to a Republican mutiny against his leadership. Gingrich’s mercurial management style has clearly stuck with him — his entire campaign staff resigned en masse earlier this year, citing the candidate’s inconstancy.
He is insufferable. A former history professor, Gingrich wants everyone to know he is the smartest person in the room and even voters don’t like a know-it-all. This insufferability would only get worse if he is elected — Gingrich said yesterday that as president, he would teach a Kaplan-style online course to connect with American citizens.
He has a women problem. Gingrich has a checkered personal history, including three marriages, adultery, and a hospital bedside divorce. It is unclear if voters will have a problem with Gingrich’s past indiscretions, but they probably won’t do much to help his image, particularly among female voters.
He used to like Nancy Pelosi and trees. In this 2008 ad, Gingrich sits on a loveseat with Nancy Pelosi and asks Americans to combat climate change. Unsurprisingly, Gingrich recently called the ad “probably the dumbest single thing I’ve done in years.”
The Blingrichs are an oppo treasure trove. Since leaving politics 13 years ago, Gingrich has concentrated on building his fortune through Newt, Inc., a complex web of shadowy financial arrangements, nonprofits, advocacy groups, consulting jobs, and a Christian publishing/production company. Already, Gingrich has come under scrutiny for his $1.6 million “historian” gig at Freddie Mac, and it’s likely that’s only the beginning, as reporters and rival candidates peel back the layers of of the Newt empire. It doesn’t help that Gingrich like to make it rain — he and his wife have a half-million credit line at Tiffany’s and his wife was spotted at the jewelry store last month.
For the ‘ideas’ candidate, he has some crazy ideas. Like wanting schools to fire janitors and put poor kids to work instead. And that individual mandate thing.
These and other weaknesses are already starting to come to light, as the media turns its attention to Gingrich’s conservative bona fides and presidential qualifications. So it’s only a matter of time before voters realise that they are not that into Gingrich after all.
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