Inside the Newt Smackdown

December 29, 2011 7:44 p.m.

About a month ago, when Newt’s numbers were shooting the moon, I wrote that as much as the numbers suggested otherwise there was simply no way the GOP establishment would let Newt Gingrich take the nomination. Just too stupid an idea, too suicidal for the party and everything connected to it.

That was no great insight. And I’m chagrined to say I briefly wavered in my certainty that Newt simply couldn’t happen — the numbers were just so strong!But I’m thinking back on it now because at the time a lot of TPM Readers wrote in to say, what Republican establishment? Who is this Republican establishment and how’d they make out against Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell in 2010? Just what levers does this ‘establishment’ have access to? What exactly would this establishment smackdown look like?All good questions. But while we’re waiting to see how the Santorum surge pans out, I think we can take a moment for what the President sometimes calls a ‘learning moment’ and say, ‘That’s what it looks like’ as we survey the rounded down lump on the highway pavement formerly known as Newt Gingrich.

Now, before going any further, I’m not saying any of this is the product of some fix being in or anything untoward. But we can step back and see how it works. First, big sums of money unleashed to hammer Gingrich and very little money available to make his case. Second, virtually every Republican of any name recognition, accomplishment or pulse coming out and pushing hard for Mitt Romney and against Newt Gingrich. Bush, Sr., Dole, Elizabeth Dole, Nikki Haley, John Sununu, virtually everyone in Congress, almost every GOP money person.

What’s more, most of these people didn’t just endorse Romney. In fact, in a lot of cases, they didn’t even quite endorse Romney. A bunch amounted to ‘I’m endorsing Mitt Romney because it would be absolutely F’ing crazy to nominate Gingrich. Don’t nominate Gingrich.’

Equally powerful were a series of high-profile anti-endorsements of Newt coming out of the Movement Conservative mediasphere which were once Newt’s stomping grounds. The National Review didn’t endorse Romney but they anti-endorsed Newt and went so far as to devote an entire issue to making the case against Newt.

Another notable fact about Newt’s fall is just how few people came out in his favor. Some of this is simply the product of not being the establishment candidate. But it’s much more than that. By my count Newt got the endorsement of four or five mid-tier former House Reps, most of whom have very little public profile today. Art Laffer endorsed him and Guiliani said a few nice things about him. And that was it. That wasn’t just a sign of limited support. It also made it very hard for Newt to resist the onslaught since he had no surrogates to appear on TV to mount a defense.

We’ve seen a lot of candidate downfalls over the last few months. What sets Newt apart is that he didn’t do anything of note to trigger it like Perry or Cain. For Gingrich, he was on remarkably good behavior. There was just a wall — from almost everyone professional concerned with the Republican party — of no. And it worked.

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