COKIE ROBERTS KINDA HEARTS NEWT, AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS ON THE GOP FRONT-RUNNER
Cokie Roberts on NPR this morning, talking about Newt Gingrich:
He's essentially channeling Ronald Reagan, but less sunny and more...
See if you can guess the last word of that sentence. I'll wait.
Here it is:
He's essentially channeling Ronald Reagan, but less sunny and more analytical.
Yeah, "analytical" -- that's le mot juste for Newt Gingrich, isn't it? "Food stamp president"? "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior"? Voting GOP prevents mothers from killing all their children? Woody Allen's marriage to Soon-yi is Democratic? Oh, yes, brilliant -- analytically brilliant!
Cokie goes on to say:
Democrats are just salivating at running against Newt Gingrich, with all of his baggage. But they should take a look at how they salivated against-- running against Ronald Reagan, too, and maybe be careful what they wish for.
Oh, please. Look, given the awfulness of the economy (and the potential increase in awfulness via Europe), you'd be crazy to say that Gingrich couldn't possibly win, but really -- this is America, no? Every winning presidential candidate has to find a way to go all Frank Capra on the voters. Even Richard Nixon managed it. Newt can't. He just can't do Humble Everyman. Not even Peggy Noonan at her peak can make him capable of faking that.
Reagan was a partisan attack dog the public thought was a classic Capraesque grandpappy. He could play the part expertly. Gingrich can't play it at all.
Meanwhile, I see that Mitt Romney has a pretty hard-hitting ad up about Gingrich and Freddie Mac:
I'm not sure why this line of attack isn't sticking. I know that the GOP crazy base probably thinks that anything any white person does to make massive amounts of money while wearing a suit and not directly taking a government paycheck is a good thing, but this is Freddie Mac, dammit! Wingers hate Fannie and Freddie! Why doesn't this hurt Newt?
Maybe it's the Rob Corddry syndrome -- it's not important that Gingrich consorted with Freddie Mac; what's important is that (to wingnuts) he doesn't seem like the kind of person who would consort with Freddie Mac. (But ... but ... he hates anything government! And quasi-governmental entities!)
But why does Gingrich get away with so many apostasies? Freddie Mac. Attacking Paul Ryan. Attacking Romney's Bain career. Doing that ad with Nancy Pelosi. Why isn't any of this politically fatal?
It's almost as if he and the base have an understanding -- base voters know he's going to cheat on them with another ideology, but he's just so good to them after that. In matters of the heart, a cad might come back home bearing flowers and expensive gifts and reservations for a romantic dinner. Gingrich just attacks Juan Williams and John King. And the base swoons! Oooh, what a hunk! Yes, he may run around, but when he comes home, there's nothing like his good lovin'.
(And feel free to flip the genders -- I'm sure there's a blues or '70s rock song that will fit this no matter which way you want to do the metaphor.)