Is Newt’s rise to frontrunner status just the last or latest in the boom and bust cycle of would-be Mitt-slayers in the GOP presidential contest? Or is he the end of it?
TPM Reader MO thinks it’s Newt’s to lose …
It seems, to me at least, that we’ve seen an end to the boom-bust cycle of the GOP race. First of all, Newt does seem like the “last non-Romney candidate standing”. In each of the other flame-outs, there was a candidate ready and waiting for the anti-Romney voters to anoint. The only one remaining to the Right of Romney is Santorum. Although I guess anything is possible, a Santorum surge seems far-fetched at best. The other thing about Newt, of course, is that unlike the other shooting stars, he has been a national figure for close to 20 years. His negatives are built-in, as the professionals say. Also, I can’t see how his comments on immigration or any other apostasy he might (will) utter will hurt him. What he said last summer that almost sunk his campaign was far worse, and yet here he is again at the top of the polls. I think this is because of the first point above - he’s the last one left. The core fact is that 75% of the GOP do not want Romney as their nominee. This probably speaks to Romney’s weakness as a candidate (he’s already been compared to Gore or Kerry as a politician) as well as the ideological mood of the current GOP.
If I may, let me share a personal anecdote. I had lunch this week with a Republican friend. Someone who all along was definitely not going to vote for Obama next Fall. Over the past couple of months, we’ve joked about the ridiculousness of Bachmann, Perry, Cain, etc. as actual front-runners. I then asked him if he had heard about Newt’s latest call to revisit child labor laws. And he said no, and as I explained what Newt said, he thought that my interpretation was just a Democratic spin on Newt’s words - that surely Newt was just talking about having children learn about civic pride. I asked him, as a father of three, if he wanted his kids to work as janitors in their schools, he said no, but no way was that what Newt meant. I was somewhat amazed at how my friend was immune to facts about Newt and then I remembered how much he was a huge fan of Newt in the 90’s.
Newt is still a hero to a lot of people who remember him as the guy who swept out the Dems in ‘94. Newt, of course, famously alienated himself from everyone in Washington, Left and Right later that decade, but… that’s just the Washington establishment.
Happy Turkey Day!
Not sure I agree with all the assumptions. But some very good points. Some additional data. Newt didn’t just make himself hated with the DC establishment. He was and has been very unpopular with the general electorate ever since. His favorability was riding at a 10 - 15 point deficit until his flame out this spring when it ballooned to almost 30%. Recently though, as you’ll see from this graph, he’s been on the mend, almost back to where he was a year ago.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.