Why Gingrich is unlikely to make Romney a better candidate

Obama benefitted from Clinton, but Romney is no Obama


One general conclusion that can be drawn from the 2008 Democratic primaries is that Hilary Clinton made Barack Obama a stronger candidate going into the presidential election. Just prior to the primaries in 2008, Clinton had a double-digit lead over Obama, just like the one Newt Gingrich now has over Mitt Romney in some key states. But by the end of January of 2008, Obama had split the early primaries and was leading Hillary in delegate count. The rest, of course, is history.

Is it possible that scenario could repeat itself in this year’s Republican race, with Romney getting a second wind thanks to a long, drawn out struggle with a formidable rival? Romney’s people are starting to spin it that way, as Romney is suddenly becoming more aggressive and more accessible; the hope remains that Gingrich will implode over the course of a protracted race. (The Republicans have changed their rules about winning delegates since 2008 and it is likely that the GOP race will be a drawn out contest similar to the one the Democrats had in 2008. In fact, some are still holding out hope a new candidate will emerge later.)

Already, the old Newt is resurfacing as he gains in confidence. He recently pledged to name hawkish former UN ambassador John Bolton as Secretary of State. Given that the neo-conservative Bolton has said he would seriously consider the military option to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, I’m not sure that this was a reassuring move by Newt. In another familiar moment of self-congratulation on CNBC’s Kudlow Report, Gingrich claimed that the policies he pursued in his years in Congress contributed to making Mitt Romney a multi-millionaire.

Meanwhile, Romney’s campaign is attempting to draw distinctions between the candidates, most recently by refusing to participate in the Trump debate on December 27. But Romney appeared unsure about his own decision, blaming the cancellation on his “schedule.” It is conceivable Gingrich will become the lastest anybody-but-Romney candidate to fade away. But don’t bet on it. Romney’s position today is starkly different from Obama’s in 2008.

Unlike Obama back in 2008, Romney does not benefit from the likability factor with his party base. Secondly, Romney wasn’t just a candidate among many in the GOP race; he was the bonafide frontrunner until Gingrich’s surge. Finally, Gingrich has gained his momentum at a critical point in the race. With less than a month to go before the Iowa caucus, Romney is in a defensive mode.

Having seen the back-to-back performances of both Gingrich and Romney in front of the New Jersey GOP Jewish coalition this past Wednesday, it is evident Newt comes across as the more confident and polished performer. Romney seems uncertain, always trying to please his audience.

Of course, Romney knows the issues, has a respectable track record and does represent a more modern approach compared to Gingrich. However, it is becoming evident that his campaign has lost the sure footing it once had, and this is reflected in the candidate’s demeanour. Right now, the jury is still out on Romney and he is looking like anything but a presidential nominee.


Why Gingrich is unlikely to make Romney a better candidate

  1. But is either of them electable facing Obama?  Gingrich has more baggage, but Romney’s baggage is more recently news.

    • Romney’s main piece of baggage is not a hindrance to him in the general election. Being seen as a flip-flopper is bad for two main reasons. First, in a time of war, the public desires a resolute leader, able to stand up to America’s enemies. This is why the flip-flop accusations were so effective against Kerry. Second, it opens one up to hidden agenda accusations – flip-floppers will say anything to get elected, so that they can enact their true agenda.

      Neither of these will hold up well for Romney:
      A. Because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down.
      B. Because the hidden agenda he is accused of having is a moderate/liberal one, not a conservative one. This will help him wing independents. 

      Romney’s bigger problem is being portrayed as a fat-cat corporate raider, during a time of great economic hardship. 

      • Romney’s biggest problem is being Mormon….and a block of wood.

        • The Mormon thing won’t matter. The kind of people for whom it is an issue believe Obama is a Muslim, and they’ll take a Mormon over a Muslim. 

          More seriously, if you look back in 2008, Romney did about as well as McCain among evangelicals, despite being a Mormon, and there being a solid option for Evangelicals (Huckabee). Yet McCain still picked up the evangelical vote in the general, and this time around there is no obvious evangelical standard-bearer.

          The evidence shows that while Romney under-performed among evangelicals, it wasn’t by much:

          Iowa Evangelicals
          Huckabee: 46% (vs 35% statewide)
          Romney: 19% (vs. 25% statewide)
          McCain: 10% (vs 13% statewide)

          New Hampshire Evangelicals
          Huckabee: 28% (vs. 11% statewide)
          Romney: 27% (vs. 32% statewide)
          McCain: 28% (vs. 37% statewide)

          South Carolina Evangelicals
          Huckabee: 35% (vs. 30% statewide)Romney: 11% (vs. 14% statewide)McCain: 33% (vs. 33% statewide)

          Florida Evangelicals
          Huckabee: 29% (vs. 14% statewide)Romney: 29% (vs. 31% statewide)McCain: 30% (vs. 36% statewide)

          Michigan Evangelicals
          Huckabee: 29% (vs. 16% statewide)Romney: 34% (vs. 39% statewide)McCain: 23% (vs. 30% statewide)

          —At this point it is important to note that conservatives started backing Romney in order to stop John McCain (as would happen in the general). Romney started overperforming among evangelicals in some cases.

          California Evangelicals
          Huckabee: 26% (vs. 14% statewide)Romney: 32% (vs. 31% statewide)McCain: 33% (vs. 42% statewide)

          New Jersey Evangelicals
          Huckabee: 26% (vs. 8% statewide)Romney: 28% (vs. 28% statewide)McCain: 38% (vs. 55% statewide)

          • Lot of bad publicity about Mormons since 2008…that’s a long time in politics.

            Might win them if Palin was his VP…but then he’d lose everyone else.

            Romney will probably be the candidate, no matter what, but he’s unlikely in the extreme to beat Obama.

          • 1. Then why is Romney leading Obama in matchup polls in many of the early primary states?
            2. Mormonism has had bad publicity since 2008? I disagree. I can’t go anywhere without seeing those “I’m a Mormon” ads, and then you have the Book of Mormon musical (it teases Mormons, but in a rather friendly way). I think you have increased knowledge of Mormonism, which can only be  a good thing for Mormons.3. While there is some reluctance among voters (here is the relevant data: http://www.gallup.com/poll/148100/Hesitant-Support-Mormon-2012.aspx ) voters are about as reluctant to vote for a Mormon in 2012 as they were to vote for a Catholic in 1960 – there aren’t enough anti-Mormon folks to sink Romney, and people’s fears tend to recede when they have an actual candidate not a hypothetical one.4. A few day before appointing Palin, McCain was within 2 points of Obama (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/us/general_election_mccain_vs_obama-225.html). He could have gotten the evangelical vote anyway (a McCain-Lieberman ticket might have won, without the financial crisis). 

          • @hosertohosier:disqus 

            Polls have shown all of them rising or ahead at one time….until they crash and burn.

            Cain was skyrocketing …..until last week.

            Mormon polygamy, Mormon ‘magic underwear’ etc aren’t good publicity….neither is their political interference, and gawd help us Donnie and Marie

            No, seriously….polls indicate people aren’t keen on voting for a Mormon.  Mormons aren’t considered christian. It was hard enough to get them to vote for a catholic!

            He’ll probably win the nomination (barring a viable surprise late candidate) but Obama will likely remain prez.

      • Romney is a phony . Gingrich comes across as more real with all his faults.

        • Yeah because a phony would never…
          -try to impeach Clinton, while having an affair and lying about it
          -create a proposal for a mandate, then criticize Romney for implementing such a policy in MA
          -call for jail-time for those involved in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, after taking 1.5 million to be their lobbyist. 

  2. John, you’re missing the most important distinction between Gingrich-Romney and Obama-Clinton. In 2008 there was not much policy difference between Obama and Clinton. They represented different identity coalitions (African Americans, creative class workers and students vs. women, blue collar workers and Hispanics), but not different ideas.

    In contrast, Gingrich and Romney represent different ideological groupings. In order to take the air out of Gingrich’s rise, Romney may have to portray himself as being more conservative. That may cost him in the general election (while probably forcing yet more high profile policy reversals for Romney). 

    • they are both conservatives .Not a good comparison.

      • There are major policy differences between Gingrich and Romney on key issues:
        -Romney supports extending the Bush tax cuts, Gingrich supports a flat tax-While Romney wants to lower the corporate tax to 25%, Gingrich wants it at 12.5%-Gingrich wants to restrict the mission of the Fed to controlling inflation, while Romney supports the status quo-Gingrich has proposed eliminating the EPA, Romney has not-Romney supports engagement with Pakistan, Gingrich thinks we should cut aid to zero-Gingrich supports social security privatization, while Romney’s position is more nuanced (some privatization, some increase in age of eligibility),Even if that was not true, Romney is perceived as more liberal than Gingrich – look at who supports Romney vs. who supports Gingrich:  http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/02/does-romney-have-a-moderate-problem/#more-19603 
        That means that Romney might have to move to the right in order to win the nomination – hurting him in the general.

        • Don’t get me wrong . I am not a fan of each-one is phony , the other is a hypocrit. . I just think Romney is toast . Gingrich has him in the ropes and he can’ t beat BO . Bring on Jeb Bush !

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