Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
Newt Gingrich strutted into Iowa and bloviated about himself. He is loud, self-confident, and uses big words. He also has a reputation for venting, ranting, and overstating almost everything he talks about. His admirers love that. His critics feel it’s his Achilles heel.
Now Newt’s campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination “imploded” when over 16 of his advisers (all of his senior campaign aides included) jumped off what they saw as a sinking ship. Even former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, Gingrich’s national campaign co-chairman, bolted to join former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty in his bid for the nomination.
Speaking of jumping ship, Newt, in a typically tin-eared and arrogant Newtism, had already taken off with his wife Callista and jumped on a ship for a Greek Island cruise.
So what, you ask?
Here in Iowa, winning the caucuses is a full time job. Newt has approached this challenge in what has been called a “cavalier” way. He started late, has not invested the time necessary to build an organization and the staff has been frustrated by his lack of attentiveness.
Also remember that Newt is tied at seven percent with Herman Cain and only two points above Pawlenty and Ron Paul. Mitt Romney leads the GOP field with 23 percent.
So the field shrinks on one end but I am certain that it will grow larger on the other end. As I have said previously, the GOP pragmatists are still looking for a candidate. Many of them are now moving towards Mitt Romney, who is gaining a lot of strength and has a sophisticated campaign organization – but not in Iowa!
Yes, kids, Iowa this year is not the wide-open and welcoming opening to the presidential contest. Iowa has become snarky and toxic in the eyes of many Republicans who’d like to snatch the White House from the Democrats. We’ve talked about it before but it’s always good to repeat.
The most conservative GOP activists have taken over a sizable chunk of the Iowa GOP and have driven away moderate Republicans including Romney. They have emphasized social issues such as opposing and making gay marriage illegal, passing further restrictions on abortions, and severe budget measures that are unsettling Independent voters. That’s similar to what the Iowa GOP did in 2008 to John McCain, who basically blew off Iowa and started his successful road to nomination in New Hampshire, which was more amendable.
Newt never showed signs of really being in for this race. He has a consulting empire that generates lots of income. He can afford a $500K account at Tiffany’s. Of course, now that his campaign has evaporated (he intends to rebuild, he says), he can go back to making money.
Some wonder if his bid for president was a “TrumPalin.” That is to say, a move like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin’s use of the presidential campaign to get free publicity and pump up his enterprises.
I wonder how many people will find Newt serious, attractive, and powerful after his ridiculous hiccups over the past month, which included his criticism of the House GOP plan to overhaul Medicare, calling it “right-wing social engineering.” The remark was one of the most shocking examples of political suicide in the history of American politics (This is an exaggerated statement similar to Newt’s exaggerations!). That step in doo-doo caused uproar from Republicans and immediately blew a hole in the side of his campaign.
The latest spin is that Newt can recover, attract a new team, and regain his footing. I completely disagree. This is a year when the GOP is anxious to weed out weak candidates since the potential field for the January 2012 caucuses is much too big and must be winnowed. Most of the GOP activists I talked with in the past day — none of them where Gingrich supporters — said good riddance. Literally, one of them said that!
One other factor that folks not familiar with the Iowa caucuses may miss is that the caucuses require a sustained and knowledgeable team on the ground to organize the caucus strategy. You don’t just go out and replace an experienced team.
I spoke with an old Iowa caucus veteran on Thursday who said Gingrich can't recover. “Newt is not going to find a single serious and seasoned Iowa caucus campaign consultant," she said. "They have all lined up with other teams or are negotiating with the remaining potential candidates.”
“Gingrich is now toxic,” she continued. “He’s too unstable and I don’t know of anyone serious who would jump on his bandwagon.”
Ouch! Newt, like New York Congressman Weiner, is toast!
Now, let’s bring in Rick Perry.
Steffen Schmidt is a professor of political science at Iowa State University. He writes blogs WNYC radio, the Des Moines Register, and is Chief Political Correspondent for Insider Iowa.