Newt vs. the Establishment

I find it incredibly fascinating that despite working in Congress for 20 years, with some of that time spent as Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich has effectively framed himself as the outsider in this election. Maybe even stranger than that is the fact that I actually believe him. Judging from recent reactions to his South Carolina win, it’s clear that the Republican establishment is very much anti-Newt.

Bob Dole is the latest establishment figure to come out against Newt. Dole and Gingrich worked together in Washington when Dole was in the senate and Gingrich in Congress, and he described Newt as hard to work with. Combine this with Romney endorsements from favorite Republicans like John McCain and Chris Christie, and the trend becomes clear. Gingrich isn’t kidding around—he actually is the anti-establishment candidate, but not because he’s been outside the system (as one would expect from a traditional anti-establishment candidate). He’s the anti-establishment candidate because the establishment knows him well, and they really just don’t like him. Republican leaders think that he is unrestrained at times and is too unpopular to be successful in the general election. The fear is that Newt would go down hard and drag down too many Republicans running for the House and Senate with him.

So with Mitt Romney having establishment endorsements and money on his side, why does Newt even have a shot at this thing? Well despite his dislike among independents, Republicans connect with Newt because he channels a lot of their anger and dislike of Washington. Since Washington is already against Newt, he’s free to bash them all he likes. And the fact is that Congress is not very popular right now, so Newt’s bashing plays into the feelings of voters. So it looks like the fact that the establishment is rejecting Newt is actually a strength for him—many Americans are on his side in having a dislike for Washington right now.

So South Carolina gave some Republicans quite a scare, but a Gingrich nomination is looking less-likely given the latest Florida poll which puts Romney ahead by 9 points. I think the saving grace for Newt in South Carolina was really his debate performance and the fact that South Carolina is a more-conservative state where it’s harder for voters to back the “Massachusetts moderate,” as Newt likes to say. I think we’ll see a pattern in the voting where Newt has the advantage in the conservative-friendly states, but in states which are actually up for grabs in the general election such as Florida, Romney has the advantage. Romney also didn’t crash-and-burn in the debates this week like he did in South Carolina. He actually came across strong in the Florida debates and was on offense more than defense for a change. Given that the poll mentioned above was conducted before the second debate, Romney has especially-strong momentum heading into the primary.

The funniest part about this whole ordeal is the fact that before the race essentially came down to Romney vs. Gingrich, Republicans weren’t all-too crazy about Romney. They sought-out a “true conservative” to rally the base and defeat Obama in 2012, but that hasn’t happened. Each candidate has their own set of flaws, and their dislike of Gingrich has apparently rallied the base around the less-than-perfect Romney. Mitt has taken-on the status of the “least worst” candidate who has the best shot of defeating Obama.

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