Whether Herman Cain is actually reassessing his campaign or not, the truth is that he’s done on the Presidential stage and will probably move into Michele Bachmann/Jon Huntsman territory forthwith. And the data show that the biggest beneficiary of this is Newt Gingrich, which makes sense, because the GOP race has always been a matter of Romney v. Not-Romney.
Certainly Mitt himself understands this, because he’s tentatively begun to take out the bazooka on Gingrich. Aside from his “(Gingrich) spent his last 30 or 40 years in Washington. I spent mine in the private sector” quip, I’m fairly certain that Romney’s team is behind the host of oppo being pushed out against Gingrich today, particularly this expose of Gingrich, Inc. in the New York Times:
Newt Gingrich is adamant that he is not a lobbyist, but rather a visionary who traffics in ideas, not influence. But in the eight years since he started his health care consultancy, he has made millions of dollars while helping companies promote their services and gain access to state and federal officials.
In a variety of instances, documents and interviews show, Mr. Gingrich arranged meetings between executives and officials, and salted his presentations to lawmakers with pitches for his clients, who pay as much as $200,000 a year to belong to his Center for Health Transformation.
When the center sponsored a “health transformation summit” at the Florida State Capitol in March 2006, lawmakers who attended Mr. Gingrich’s keynote speech inside the House chamber received a booklet promoting not just ideas but also the specific services of two dozen of his clients. Executives from some of those companies sat on panels for discussions that lawmakers were encouraged to attend after Mr. Gingrich’s address.
Gingrich’s alibi, that he’s not a lobbyist because he’s just too damn filthy rich, doesn’t really help. And I think over the next several weeks, you’re going to hear more laments like Joe Scarborough’s about how Gingrich represents the worst of the political/corporate revolving door.
And yet this hasn’t come close to hurting Gingrich with voters yet. In fact, he’s starting to pull away in key states, including Iowa, South Carolina and now Florida. And it’s not like we’re still in the dating phase here; the primaries are just weeks away.
Even Gingrich’s immigration comments, which I assumed at one point was his attempt to turn his campaign for President back into the book tour it was supposed to be, hasn’t hurt him yet, though the cries of “amnesty” are getting a bit louder. Scandals and apostasies that have felled his rivals appear to be bouncing right off Newt. Why is this?
I think Ben Adler nails it: Newt is extremely good at the core requirement for modern conservatism: hating liberals.
§ In September, 2010 Gingrich told National Review that Dinesh D’Souza’s widely mocked Forbes article on President Obama provided him with the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama…. What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
§ In an October, 2011 presidential debate Gingrich, responding to why no one on Wall Street was arrested after the financial crisis, said, “If you want to put people in jail, you ought to start with Barney Frank, Chris Dodd.”
§ Gingrich has repeatedly denigrated the Occupy Wall Street movement with language that oscillates from dismissive to paranoid. On November 20, he instructed them to “Go get a job, right after you take a bath.” Just a few days earlier Gingrich had decried “the destructive, hostile, anti-civilization of the so-called ‘Occupy Wall Street’ crowd…. They want to tear down our country.”
To most people these sorts of comments seem divisive, foolish and unpresidential. To a movement conservative, though, they hit the sweet spot. When Gingrich declares that his two big problems with the Dodd-Frank financial reform law are “Dodd and Frank,” it offers no actual argument or substantive explanation. But Republican audiences roar with laughter and delight. Gingrich is the most aggressive and effective of the Republican contenders at ridiculing Democrats and liberals.
Keep in mind that Gingrich was known to the conservative base as a figure who would go on Fox News and ridicule Democrats and liberals. This is the perfect perch for a Presidential campaign, so much so that others in the field were also Fox alumnae. But Gingrich has perfected this sneering resentment, which extends to the assumed-to-be-liberal media that asks him questions in debates, the main form of campaigning this year. And he’s being rewarded for it. In fact, he was leading in some private polls because of name ID before his campaign imploded the moment he entered the race.
His stances on the issues, such as his flat tax, also mostly happen to align with conservative litmus tests. And everyone has forgotten his disrespecting of the Paul Ryan Medicare plan (though I’d expect someone to trot that out soon). But really, this is quite simple: conservatives want a President who represents only them. Gingrich is their best bet.