WHAT COMES AFTER "TRUTHERS"? "MITTERS"?
Newt Gingrich is clearly far more popular among voters right now than the guy who's still the insiders' favorite to win the nomination -- but, even though I'm often a contrarian, I know what a preposterously huge undertaking it is to run for president seriously in this country, so I suspect that the conventional wisdom is correct ... or at least part of it:
Surging in polls is one thing. But as Newt Gingrich seeks to turn his impressive performance in surveys into votes, he is scrambling madly to build the kind of organization that Mitt Romney has methodically put in place for a year, one that will let him compete through all 50 contests, often in multiple states at once....
If neither candidate succeeds in knocking out the other in the burst of early tests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, Mr. Gingrich could be faced with the ultimate challenge to his campaign: the need to survive a war of attrition of the sort for which he is unprepared at the moment.
Where volunteers for Mr. Romney have gathered voters' signatures to be on the ballots of Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Vermont and Virginia, Mr. Gingrich's campaign is only beginning to activate volunteers in those states....
Yeah, I think Romney could take this nomination because he's out-organized Gingrich, even though Gingrich is the base's preferred candidate. But I'm wondering if the second part of the conventional wisdom is really true: that, subsequently, Republican voters will rally around Romney.
Particularly if Romney starts winning states where Gingrich leads in the polls, a conspiracy is going to emerge on the right that Romney's victory is the result of liberal/Democratic/ACORN voter fraud! Right? Isn't it? Or at the very least, it will be said that establishment liberals and Democrats are collaborating with some sort of Vast RINO Conspiracy to make the Evil Mitt the nominee.
I know, I know: polls say GOP voters hate Obama so much that they'll rally around Romney. The kind of outrage I'm describing isn't showing up in the polls yet.
Well, PUMAism didn't show up among Democrats until Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 primaries was all but assured. There's plenty of time for disaffected anyone-but-Mitt-ers to go crazy.
Ah, but PUMAism didn't really hurt Obama in the general election, did it? Yes, but don't forget: Republicans are crazier than Democrats. Democrats in 2008 had a spirited contest between two utterly mainstream candidates, then (apart from a tiny group of grumblers) shook hands and united around the winner (who later gave the loser an important job). Republicans are desperately searching for a rabble-rousing bomb-thrower, a dangerous guy to ride in on a Harley and save them from a boring marriage to the son of the guy who runs Pop's Malt Shoppe, and it's clear they'd be perfectly happy if that dangerous guy turned out to be a psychopath.
PUMAism was a temporary threat to Obama -- but the insanity of the Republican voter base, cultivated for years by the right-wing media, could lead the rubes, in the late winter and spring, to conclude that Romney won because sinister forces cheated them out of their votes. A theory as insane as birtherism could emerge.
Could that toothpaste be put back in the tube? I'm not sure. It'd be fun to watch, though, wouldn't it?
(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)