A number of TPM Readers referenced this today in emails. And moments ago, Brit Hume made a similar argument. For Hume it was making sense of the exit polls which appear to show that people didn’t just like Newt Gingrich better than Romney. They think Newt would be the stronger general election candidate too. Now, all the available poll data suggests that’s very wrong. So why the disconnect?
One good possibility is simple cognitive dissonance. People have a hard time pulling the lever for someone they don’t think can win. So they adjust their thoughts accordingly. But there’s another possibility, the one our readers and Hume was suggesting. And that is that a lot of GOP primary voters — at least in South Carolina — seem less concerned about building an electoral majority than engineering some epic smack-down of Barack Obama in the debates. It’s like a hunger for catharsis. And if that’s your thinking, Newt is just sort of irresistible.
Remember, this is the argument Newt has consistently made: that Obama will somehow just wilt or collapse under the assault of Newt’s Lincoln-Douglas style awesomeness.
I don’t think Newt would be able to deliver any kind of smackdown to President Obama in a debate — if we mean by a smackdown, anything that would make the voters who matter more likely to vote for Gingrich than Obama. But if you’re a base Republican, Newt might well tell Obama just what you’ve been wanting to tell him for years.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.