Gingrich on the offensive
Following up on my post from yesterday on Newt's "chickening out" on Romney and Bain, retreating from his justifiable comments about Romney's "vulture" capitalism, I must say that it does look at if Gingrich is following through on his pledge to attack Romney. He's just making his line of attack broader, and less anti-Republican, and less dangerous to himself, than questioning capitalism.
As Conor Friedersdorf reported at The Atlantic, Newt sent out a "blast" to National Review's e-mail list that hits Romney hard and asks for conservative support to take him down:
We can either nominate a timid Massachusetts moderate Republican to take on a secular socialist who threatens to turn us into a nation like the decrepit Republics of Western Europe, or we can nominate a bold Reagan conservative who will take the fight to Barack Obama in the Fall. Will you join me?
There's no more time for talking about stopping Mitt Romney. We're going to do it next week in South Carolina or he's almost certain to be the Republican nominee, whether conservatives like us want it or not. It's up to you, right now.
As Speaker of the House, I forced Bill Clinton to accept welfare reform, four straight balanced budgets, and extensive tax cuts. Since then, Republicans have governed like moderates. My 21st Century Contract with America is the boldest, most conservative plan put forward. We will get America back on the path to job creation and economic growth with conservative principles. If that's the kind of President you want in the Oval Office, then I need your help today because the mainstream media and Republican establishment absolutely cannot wait to nominate Mitt Romney.
You can have a conservative nominee for President if you want one, but you have to stand up and fight for it. Not next week or next month, but right now. I hope you will stand with me today.
So much of this is ridiculous -- Obama as "secular socialist"? Dubya as "moderate"? Newt pushing Clinton around all by himself? -- but, then, Newt himself is pretty ridiculous, an egomaniac with a rather delusional sense of self and rather dubious ideological rhetoric. And yet he's making the anti-Romney case that we've been waiting for these many long months.
His problem is that while he can be an effective messenger there's just no way Republicans are going to let him be their nominee. Even if he would be able to stand up far more forcefully than Romney ever could to Obama, particularly in the debates (another of his current selling points), he's just too egomaniacal and too unstable, too much of a renegade, too much of a risk.
Romney is extremely vulnerable, to be sure, not least with so many prominent conservatives (e.g., Limbaugh, Will, Kristol) refusing to back him, but he continues to benefit from the lack of effective opposition, from the lack of a credible alternative. Newt will give it a run in South Carolina, where he's doing fairly well in the polls, but that will likely be that.