Thursday, June 09, 2011

So long, Newt Gingrich. It's been a train wreck.


I never thought The Newt ever had a realistic shot at the Republican presidential nomination, for a variety of reasons that I'll get to shortly. But I thought he'd be in the race at least through the early primaries, if only to reinforce the Gingrich brand that has been so profitable to him.

Actually, I'm not sure if I thought that. Given that there's really no good reason for him to be in the race, it was inevitable that his candidacy would flame out. It was just a matter of when.

Even after he challenged Paul Ryan and the new GOP orthodoxy, though, even after he repented and predictably lashed out at the media, refusing to take responsibility for himself (as usual), even when it was clear that his candidacy was doomned, I figured he'd make it into the summer and then bow out (or middle finger out, or somewhere in between) quietly, without anyone really paying any attention, without any sort of eulogy to his catastrophic campaign.

He may still last that long, but it's over, more or less. The headlines say it all:

Politico: "The Newt Gingrich campaign implosion."

WaPo: "Gingrich presidential campaign implodes."

(The word of the day, kids, is implosion.)

NYT: "Gingrich’s Senior Campaign Staff Resigns."

MSNBC: "Senior Gingrich aides resign campaign en masse."

And from the state where it all begins, and where you pretty much have to make your mark if you have any hope of winning it all:

The Des Moines Register: "Gingrich's entire paid Iowa campaign team resigns."

Etc., etc., etc. His top people in Iowa stepped down, but so did his top people in New Hampshire and South Carolina. This was indeed massive.

Now, was this because his staffers finally came to the conclusion, however obvious to the rest of us, that he has zero chance of winning? And perhaps also because they wanted to back a winner, and to go work for a winner, instead of continuing to ply their trade with a loser?

You'd think so, right?

Well, at the Weekly Standard neocon rag, Fred Barnes claims that the problem was Calista, Newt's (third) wife. Sort of:

Aides to Newt Gingrich have resigned from his presidential campaign in protest of what they felt was a takeover by Callista Gingrich, the candidate’s wife since 2000.

The euphemism offered by departing staffers was they disagreed with Gingrich's "strategy" for the campaign. Indeed, they did disagree. But it was a strategy – a part-time campaign, in effect – that Gingrich's wife favored.

If this is true, it hardly matters that it's Calista who's pushing the strategy. What matters is what the strategy is -- a strategy that pretty much proves that Newt isn't a serious candidate and isn't serious about trying to win the nomination.

And if he's not in it to win it, if I may quote Randy, then what is he in it for? Well, again, it would seem purely for himself, for his brand, to keep his name out there in the media spotlight, to profit from being a national political figure.

This is what he's always been about, ever since he left the House. He's always been tantalizing us, or rather his supporters and others who follow him and erroneously think him a serious man who deserves our attention (like those in the media associated with the Sunday morning talk shows), with the prospect of running for president. That's partly how he's been able to remain relevant, if only to the media, as well as to build his self-serving brand into a sort of mini-empire of profitable egotism.

I was somewhat surprised that he jumped into the race, as I didn't think he would, but his lack of seriousness as a candidate, if less so as a partisan policy advocate, proves the point. This is not about winning, this is about self-promotion, about marketing, about what it's always been about.

For whatever reason, his top people decided it was time to go. And it's clearly not just because of his wife, or even mainly so. Here's Politico:

Gingrich was intent on using technology and standing out at debates to get traction while his advisers believed he needed to run a campaign that incorporated both traditional, grassroots techniques as well as new ideas.

One official said the last straw came when Gingrich went forward with taking a long-planned cruise with his wife last week in the Greek isles.

There you go. His team wanted him to run a campaign that could succeed, while he only wanted to keep his star aloft. Period.

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I wrote that I'd get into the variety of reasons he doesn't have, and never has had, a realistic shot at the Republican presidential nomination. But do I really need to?

Aside from the fact that he's an egomaniacal blowhard who's only in it for himself, he has way too much baggage, way too many strikes against him, not least at a time when the Tea Party and other GOP constituencies on the right are imposing litmus tests on all Republicans -- and particularly on those with presidential aspirations.

Newt's a conservative, to be sure, but he's had to make all sorts of concessions along the way, like most legislators do, and he's just not conservative enough for today's Republican Party. Consider what he said about Ryan's draconian, anti-Medicare budget plan. He was right. It is "radical." It is "right-wing social engineering." It is "too big a jump." But look how much trouble that got him into. He may not have such problems to the degree Mitt Romney does, but he has said enough and done enough throughout his career to place him on the wrong side of GOP orthodoxy. All it takes is a single transgression. He is man of many.

For my general take on Gingrich, a more thorough examination of his many flaws, see this post.

**********

For what it's worth, Newt says he's staying in the race. He even took to Facebook to make the announcement:

I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring. The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles.

So he's committed to running an unserious campaign with no hope of winning anything. Okay. Whatever.

I suppose he can say his campaign will begin anew, now that he's lost his top people, but there's no way it lasts much longer. He's done.

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