Let us assume, hypothetically, that a voter believes that a partial list of persons who would be a better president than Barack Obama -- maybe not that voter's first choice, but just a better choice -- would include Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Howie Mandel (all right, he's Canadian, but POTUS doesn't think one's birthplace is important, why should we?), Khloe Kardashian, David Lee Roth, and the constitutionally qualified population of Flasher, North Dakota. And that the short list of persons who would be worse would include Michael Moore, Pauly Shore, and Joe Biden.
All right, that's hyperbolic. But the point is that our hypothetical voter thinks that Barack Obama has been a haahhhrrible president. Whose defeat later this year is imperative to prevent further damage to the Republic and to begin to reverse the damage already done.
And let's say that our hypothetical voter is a Republican preparing to vote in a primary. And it's even possible, not necessary, but possible, that our voter voted for the President and is not only disappointed, but feels a little . . . misled. Misled by the candidate Obama, misled by the mainstream press.
And our voter is mad and getting madder with each new baffling decision and utterance of the President, apparently composed in the brief intervals between rounds of golf, vacations, smoke-and-cocktail breaks, and parties. Our voter is reminded of her dissatisfaction daily because the Republicans are lining up to try to take his job, pounding away at him.
Michelle . . . isn't helping.
But our voter knows our President is a smart guy, a very smart guy, a very smooth guy, a good talker, wears clothes beautifully, handsome, a charismatic presence. Bad as he's been, he could fool enough people again. Could win, could well win.
This is very upsetting to our hypothetical voter. It makes her mad.
And she starts to think a thought that makes her smile, that gives her something to look forward to.
She thinks: Newt Gingrich would absolutely dismantle Barack Obama in a debate. He's brainier, he's a better speaker, he's a master of facts -- and he's nasty. He would penetrate the President's smugness, his condescension, his scolding pedagogy. All right in front of him, with the whole nation watching.
Newt? Newt?? Newt!!
Ahhh. That feels good. She taps the touch-screen next to his name, smiles again, and sends her vote to the primary election computer.
It is at this point that your decidedly nonhypothetical Cool Hot Center steps into the frame.
Newt Gingrich and I agree on many things. You will note that he was on my list of improvements over POTUS. One thing we disagree on is his suitability as the Republican nominee. One other thing is the likelihood that come November, more voters will agree with me on this point than with him, and his candidacy will have ensured four more years of the terrifying Obama.
It may feel good to throw in with Newt’s soaring rhetoric and liberal-elite-bashing now, but the man cannot be elected. He is angry. Like Tea Party angry. But the Tea Party is not going to elect the next President, just like mainstream conservatives did not elect John McCain. Or Bob Dole. Or even George H.W. Bush against Clinton.
I agree with our hypothetical voter that Newt might well demolish POTUS in debate for all the reasons she imagines. But Newt is a man who is not in control of either his thoughts or his mouth. Did you listen to his victory speech in South Carolina? He cannot help calling the President stupid, which few sincerely believe irrespective of their disapproval of the man. In expressing incredulity at the President’s decision on the Keystone pipeline, he offered this witless appraisal: “It’s one thing to say the White House can’t play chess, it’s another to say it can’t play checkers,” he said. “But tic-tac-toe?” The crowd was notably silent after this gratuitous shot. And that wasn’t the only one in those rather dyspeptic remarks.
And he will not be able to control his anger over the course of a difficult national campaign. He is a guy whose grandiosity is, if anything, more virulent than Obama’s. Give him a prominent forum, and he switches off the prudent politician’s filter; the controversies start to erupt. Look what happened when he was in the House of Representatives: He developed the “Contract with America” and was largely credited with the huge Republican gains in the 1994 congressional elections, ending four decades of Democratic rule. Good Newt. Welfare reform – good Newt. Capital gains tax cut – good Newt. But things started to fall apart. There was the government shutdown – ideologically pure, maybe, but hugely unpopular. Then the ethics charges. But his main sin was high-handedness born of his megalomania. He was very nearly removed as Speaker by his own party. Then came the Clinton impeachment which he relentlessly promoted – another one of those ideologically-driven but ill-handled initiatives that came to disgust a lot of the voting public. 1998 mid-terms – the Republicans lost seats, and his status as the face of the Party was assigned a large share of the blame. A few days later, he not only resigned as Speaker, but left Congress, having alienated the entire Republican caucus.
People who get most of their information from Fox News and featured links on The Drudge Report may find themselves puzzled as to how President Obama’s approval ratings, dismal though they may be, are as high as they are. We will put aside the makeup of the 45% (as of this writing) who tell Rasmussen that they “somewhat approve” of his performance. The point is that this is going to be a difficult campaign for the Republicans. Newt will run a campaign of resentment and anger; Obama will repeat his vague message of hope and change and comforting paternalism.
There is plenty of cause for resentment and anger over the President’s performance. But voters are going to weary of being harangued, and they’re going to quail at Newt’s streak of meanness, which they will correctly interpret as a lack of judgment and presidential temperament.
No, folks, for better or worse, Mitt Romney is the choice if the Republicans hope to bring in the moderate voters who installed President Obama. Of course he has his problems. He has flip-flopped (although his most recent flip is in the right direction). He has mishandled the tax-return issue. But his campaign is cheerful and optimistic. He is not burdened by Newt’s seamy personal history. He may be more moderate than Newt and the Tea Party on some issues but ya know something? So are lots and lots of voters, and Romney is reliably conservative on the big issues. He has said one of the most important things a candidate can say to conservatives, and that is that he will repeal Obamacare. He is well-spoken; he can easily be pictured in the Oval Office, dealing diplomatically with world leaders.
And he'll do just fine in the debates.
Mitt Romney can beat Obama. (Recent statements by George Stephanopolous and Nancy Pelosi that Romney would be the weakest candidate are dead-solid proof that the Democrats are terrified of a Romney candidacy.) Newt cannot. I don’t care what the polls say now – by the time the nation has had months of all-Newt, all the time, enough moderates will recoil and either stay home or vote to give our charming President – he is charming, you know – another chance.
So all you Republican primary voters out there: Do what you have to do to get the fiery Newton Leroy Gingrich out of your system. Enjoy it. Send a message, share your anger. I would say with the South Carolina rebuke of media elites that reversed his fortunes, Gingrich has been as effective as he is likely ever to be on the national stage. The itch has been scratched. Time to put some soothing Romney lotion on it, and get on with the important work of getting America back to greatness.