That was close.
The idea that Newt Gingrich might actually win the GOP presidential nomination sent shivers down the spines of enough Republicans that they actually came to their senses this week and began to support Ron Paul in the Iowa caucus polls. As for the national trends, it looks like Mitt Romney is the betting favorite on Internet sites.
The Gingrich flirtation lasted only as long as voters knew little about what he might do in office. His tirades against the federal judiciary might play well with the ultra-conservatives, but they seem to be non-starters among the more moderate voters who will come out in later primary states. Also, his lack of organization is showing, but that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Gingrich never seemed to be in the race for anything other than to get his ideas in the marketplace. He succeeded. Now there’s a 50% off sticker on them and they’re not long for the discontinued bin.
Republican voters have sampled all of the candidates over the course of the last few months and they seem to be coalescing around Romney, despite conservative suspicion that he’s not fully committed to their causes. There’s a good reason for this; he’s not, but he’s the only electable candidate in the field. So that leaves us with a volatile race in Iowa with Romney, Paul (my favorite to pull out a win), Bachmann and Perry able to cobble together enough caucus voters to move on to the next set of states. Rick Santorum is getting a little love this week from evangelicals, but that will all come to naught after Iowa.
Then the serious race will begin in earnest. Depending upon what happens in the next few days, Romney will have to defend Republican obstruction that led to the end of the payroll tax cut, or he’ll have to run against it as flawed policy, despite the cut being popular among voters and economists. He’ll also have to harness the Tea Party faction that doesn’t want to compromise on anything, and is losing support, even with Republicans. Add on the fact that President Obama’s poll numbers are improving, and Mitt suddenly has a more daunting task ahead of him than he did in October (did he just announce his first major policy decision?).
But that’s all in the future. Right now, we should be thanking Newt Gingrich for a spirited campaign that ultimately showed his best days to be behind him. His rise and fall was swifter than Herman Cain’s and the reality of a Gingrich presidency was always going to present problems in a world that’s moved beyond the 1990s. Perhaps Romney can find room for Newt in his administration as, say, ambassador to Libya?
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