Opinion: It's Newt v. The Republican Establishment

Monday, January 30, 2012 - 02:53 PM

On the eve of the Florida primary for the Republican nomination for president, two items have become abundantly clear to me. First, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney dislike each other intensely, and on a personal level. The second item which piqued my attention is the manner and level with which the so-called Republican “Establishment” has joined forces to defeat Gingrich’s bid to become president in favor of Romney—this in spite of the fact that many Republicans question the depth and sincerity of Romney’s conservative bona fides.

Last week, former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican standard-bearer for president, issued a blistering open letter questioning the viability of Gingrich’s candidacy. After noting that most of the members of Congress who served with the former Speaker had failed to endorse his candidacy, Dole escalated his criticism by saying:

Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall. He loved picking a fight with President Clinton because he knew this would get the attention of the press. This and a myriad of other specifics like shutting down the government helped to topple Gingrich in 1998.

All of the above statements are true—I should know, as I was the Legislative Director to then-House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich (R-OH) during the entirety of Gingrich’s term as Speaker of the House. Kasich, now serving as Ohio’s governor, would return from many a leadership meeting mulling over one idiosyncratic idea or another presented by the Speaker. A great visionary and revolutionary, it was clear early on in Newt’s speakership that ideas and vision didn’t translate directly into his being a strong leader many of his fellow House Republicans wished to follow.

But Dole going public against his former colleague raised eyebrows around town last week, as that was a clear violation of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican. And yet, the list grows longer by the day of former Senators, members of Congress, political pundits and Republican opinion leaders who have taken to the airwaves and print to denounce the man they once cheered for in droves. How did this happen?

My take is that the Republican “Establishment” such as it is, sees a remarkable opportunity to defeat the current occupant of the Oval Office. Given the stakes of the election and that the contest will likely be a nail biter, serious concern was shared, first privately and now publicly, that Newt will blow it. That is, there are two Newts that many folks in DC have seen. The first is the brilliant visionary who talks of Republican dominance for generations to come at the national level. The second Newt is the petulant leader who sulked over his seat on Air Force One during the Clinton years, the Newt who embraced global climate change with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) just a few years ago. And perhaps most importantly, the Newt who promised to run a positive campaign during the primary process has now turned his chase against Gov. Romney as his own personal saga of Moby Dick. This Newt, many Republicans fear, would rather destroy the Republican ship of state in his pursuit of his nemesis, rather than preserving the strength and health of the Republican brand both for this election and cycles to come. This is a risk many Republicans are unwilling to take—look for the ranks to close firmly around Gov. Romney should he prevail in Florida tomorrow.


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Comments [5]

Kressel Housman

I'm one of the uninsured in this country. What do I do now?

Jun. 28 2012 11:53 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

I agree that the toughest run for the money will come from Romney. Gingrich is not all there, Paul is too simplistic and Santorum is the candidate most attractive to the supposed Republican base. Obama campaigning smartly can beat any of these guys. Because he is considered more ideologically pure, a big part of me wants Santorum to be the GOP candidate so that the GOP can disavow itself of the "We lost because our candidate just wasn't a pure enough X (you fill in the blank)" BS that they love to delude themselves with. Joe Nocera's logic...

The downside is that Santorum would poll so badly that many voters would consider the race to be Obama in a walk and not show up to cast votes to the detriment of down-ticket races. That leads to the GOP keeping the House or (shudder) taking the Senate.

So gimme Romney if it means a bigger turn-out in the general. But if it is Romney watch for every SuperPac dollar going to freeze the Independents in position. The strategy on both sides will be "If you're not for me, stay home!"

Mar. 08 2012 11:03 AM

A FOREIGN NATION HAS COMPLETELY TAKEN OVER AMERICA'S ELECTIONS. If a politician is not a member of the Council On Foreign Relations ( - a "jewish" front - he won't receive maximum funding. In addition, Israeli companies manufacture our voting machines. NOW ...results from our elections will be broadcast through the "jewish" companies Google and Twitter. AMERICA, ARE YOU SELLING OUT AMERICA BECAUSE YOU'RE STUPID OR AFRAID? WHICH IS IT?

Jan. 31 2012 01:18 PM
Tony N from yourtown, usa

Mitt says He will Cut military spending and Fund Obamacare ,

Jan. 30 2012 08:53 PM
Intelligent person from Florida

ROMNEY is the only candidate that CAN BEAT OBAMA ! The Democrats would LOVE to run against Gingrich... it'd be a cakewalk!!! Anyone voting for an ego-maniacal blustery windbag as flawed as Newt Gingrich is ensuring 4 more years of Obama... which would ruin the USA.

Jan. 30 2012 03:58 PM

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