In This Corner…Newt Gingrich

2012 Contender Series: Newt Gingrich

(Updated May 16, 2011. Gingrich has officially declared his candidacy for Republican nomination for President.)

Meet the Newt boss? On Friday, Newton Leroy “Newt” Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House all but formally announced his intentions to run for President in 2012. It has to be pretty serious; Fox News kicked him off of their staff.

Gingrich has a tremendous amount of baggage. To understand the man today, you really need to see where he’s been and how he got here.

In a story reminiscent of more recent scandals, 16-year-old Newt Gingrich fell for his high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, who was in her mid-20s. They dated in secret while he was still in high school, and married on June 19, 1962, about a year after he graduated. They quickly had two daughters, and she supported the family while he was in college until he received his PhD. His fatherhood and stay in academia kept him out of the military during the Vietnam War.

Newt Gingrich, his first wife, Jackie Battley, and his two children, Kathy and Jackie, at his 1978 victory

Gingrich made multiple attempts at representing Georgia’s sixth congressional district, but was unable to beat the incumbent Democrat, Jack Flynt. Upon Flynt’s announcement of retirement in 1978, Gingrich easily won the seat. He ultimately held a seat in the House for two decades.

In 1980, Newt famously presented Jackie with divorce terms while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery to treat her uterine cancer. Shortly after, Gingrich refused to pay his alimony and child-support payments, leading his hometown First Baptist Church to take up collections to support them. He had been having an affair with Marianne Ginther, the daughter of an Ohio mayor, whom he met at a political fundraiser. They married in 1981, six months after his divorce from Jackie was finalized.

Newt Gingrich and second wife Marianne Ginther

His rise to prominence began with the 1988 campaign he spearheaded to bring down then-Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX), over the use of money from a book deal as a means of bypassing campaign finance laws. Despite the Georgia Congressman being apparently guilty of the same violation himself, Wright resigned, and Gingrich remained.

With the battle freshly won, he determined that this was a means for him to gain notoriety, defeat Democrats, and accumulate power. He took seven 1989 Republican House freshmen under his wing, and started a broader campaign to paint the then nearly sixty-year Democratic majority of the House as corrupt, as a means of replacing them with  (theoretically incorruptible) Republican rule. The two most significant elements of the anti-corruption campaign were the 1991 “check-kiting” and 1992 “post office” scandals. [Ed note: Gingrich, himself was involved in the check-kiting scheme including one check of $9,500 to the IRS]

In the former, 22 Representatives, 19 of whom were Democrats, were taking advantage of lax rules in the House checking clearinghouse. In essence, as a job benefit, the House would cover their members’ overdrafts, with the gentlemen’s understanding that the money would be repaid by the overdrawn members. Some members had overdrawn balances for periods in excess of two years. While not illegal, it was certainly distasteful. Twenty of the 22 were defeated in their attempts at reelection in 1992, further cementing in Republicans’ eyes the belief that the road to a successful takeover was paved with claims of corruption.

Meanwhile, Gingrich had a detour. The 1990 census resulted in Georgia gaining a seat, but the Democrats who controlled the state General Assembly gerrymandered his district into pieces, and his home was placed in the territory of an incumbent Democrat, who was expected to win reelection (ironically, he did not). Gingrich moved to Marietta, where he felt he had a better chance at remaining in the House. He nearly lost the primary, but the gamble paid off; he stayed in the House.

Newt Gingrich and Callista Bisek

It was around this time that he began an affair with Callista Bisek, a Congressional staffer half his age.

The post office investigation lasted for years, and ultimately uncovered genuinely illegal activity, though the details were more difficult to explain to the public. In short, several Representatives were taking funds allocated for business expenses, using them to buy postage stamps, which were then sold back to the post office at face value. The proceeds were then pocketed by the Representative, thus turning the operation into one of money laundering for personal gain. Representative Dan Rostenkowski, a member of the Chicago “machine,” was implicated in the scandal, and became the poster child of Congressional corruption in the 1994 midterm election.

The drumbeat of corruption explained to voters why not to vote for the Democrats, but it did little to explain why voters should want Republicans to replace them. With some help from the Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks, Republican leaders drafted the Contract with America, a list of actions they promised to take if they controlled the House. Gingrich spent the summer and fall of 1994 as the voice of House Republicans, touting the Contract as the remedy for the historical corruption of the House (with the tacit implication that the corruption was driven by Democrats).

The marketing worked. Republicans gained control of the House for the first time since the New Deal, and Gingrich was anointed as Speaker.

He quickly moved to implement the Contract terms, including a balanced budget amendment, longer sentences for criminals, reductions in welfare payments, changes in the income tax structure to encourage marriage and procreation, small-business tax incentives, and a House member term limit amendment. Many of these eventually became law, though neither amendment was ratified.

At first, the Contract was, in general, loved by Republicans, hated by Democrats (who preferred to call it the Contract on America), and liked or disliked to varying degrees by moderates. But one effect was to counter Tip O’Neill‘s observation that “all politics is local.” All politics began to shift to a more national scope.

In an attempt to publicly live up to his promises of fiscal responsibility, he discouraged members of Congress from maintaining residences in DC. This eliminated one of the ways that aisle-crossing negotiations had occurred, since members of Congress often shared residences with each other prior to 1994. Once they stopped this practice, it became increasingly rare for them to fraternize with members of the opposing party. Eventually, such socializing was discouraged altogether.

But 1995 marked the beginning of the end for the Newt Deal. The public began to see what implementation of the Contract meant in their daily lives. Ultimately, he found himself caught between his promises to reduce spending and his inability to overcome a veto from President Clinton.

When the fiscal year ended at the end of September, 1995, Congress still hadn’t passed a budget, in part because of the increasing partisanship. Republicans wanted deep cuts in spending, but Clinton refused to go along with them. Gingrich threatened to prevent raising of the debt limit, which would put the country into default on existing debt. This would have a catastrophic impact on the global economy. The threat alone would raise interest rates on Treasury debt, due to the decrease in lender confidence.

At the last minute, Congress passed a continuing resolution, maintaining government services and funding at existing levels for six weeks. On the last day of the six-week reprieve, Republican leaders presented Clinton and Vice President Al Gore with a “best and final offer,” involving substantial cuts to Medicare. Clinton refused to budge on that point, and the negotiations ceased.

The next day, November 14, 1995, all non-essential government services shut down. Perversely, the shutdown cost taxpayers $400 million. Another continuing resolution was passed, buying a little more time, but ultimately, the extra time didn’t lead to a budget; government shut down once again.

Each side blamed the other. A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that just before the shutdown, 46% blamed the Republicans and 27% blamed the President for the looming crisis. Someone took a page from Dr. Seuss’s catalog and wrote about the shutdown. And then Newt opened his mouth and…well, let’s hear it from Tom DeLay, in his book No Retreat, No Surrender:

He told a room full of reporters that he forced the shutdown because Clinton had rudely made him and Bob Dole sit at the back of Air Force One … Newt had been careless to say such a thing, and now the whole moral tone of the shutdown had been lost. What had been a noble battle for fiscal sanity began to look like the tirade of a spoiled child. The revolution, I can tell you, was never the same.

Daily News cover illustrated by Ed Murawinski.

Image via Wikipedia

The press immediately took the story and ran with it. The public, naturally, was horrified to hear that their lives were more difficult not because of any urgent government issues, but because the Speaker of the House was having a tantrum about sitting in the back of a luxuriously appointed, chartered Boeing 747…paid for with their tax dollars. The Republicans were unable to recover from the gaffe, and ultimately backed down on their budgetary demands of Clinton.

In the midst, Clinton was creating his own troubles, meeting clandestinely with Monica Lewinsky. This would prove to harm Newt far more than it ever would Bill.

The first signs of weakness in the Newt Revolution appeared in the 1996 election. Clinton beat Bob Dole, and the Republicans lost nine seats in the House. In the middle of 1997, several GOP Representatives attempted to convince him to step down, under the threat of voting in a new Speaker. He took another gamble, telling them that a coup might result in Dick Gephardt becoming Speaker. They backed down, but the seeds of doubt were sown.

Then the annual deficits, as sure as the sun rising in the east, suddenly disappeared. The economy, which had been growing at the most rapid pace in history, erased the deficit without having to make any hard cuts. The battles over economics no longer had meaning to the general public. The horses of corruption and deficit reduction that Gingrich rode to the House podium would no longer serve the party. Instead, the discussion shifted to policy based on morals, the one remaining point of differentiation for the GOP. As should be clear by now, this area is hardly one of Newt’s strengths.

The party began to run away from Gingrich, focusing on embarrassing the President over his tryst with Lewinsky in the Oval Office. This put the Speaker in a difficult position, as he was having his own much more lengthy affair with Callista. Sure, he could attack Clinton for perjury, but he would have been just as likely to do the same had he been asked under oath about his own affair. Nonetheless, he found himself in a position beyond his control. The GOP, no longer controlled by a weakened Gingrich, was betting that the public humiliation of the President, including publication of lurid details of his affair, would be the ticket to increasing their majorities in both houses of Congress. Newt had little choice but to run with it.

But instead of the expected gains, November, 1998, opened with Republicans showing the largest loss in Congress of a party not holding the Presidency, since World War II. The impeachment had proven to be extremely unpopular among Americans. This time, the calls for Gingrich’s resignation were much louder and more public. He agreed to step down as Speaker. Once again, his temper flared; despite an overwhelming victory in the election for his seat, he abandoned the job a mere three days after the election.

In 1999, a few months after learning that his second wife, Marianne, had multiple sclerosis, Gingrich called Marianne’s mother on Mother’s Day to wish her a happy 84th birthday. In the same phone call, he told Marianne that he wanted a divorce.

Subsequently, he married Callista, converted to Catholicism, and mostly stayed out of the public eye, preferring to exert influence through conservative think tanks, though he did throw up trial balloons of running for President in 2008.

His ghosts continue to haunt him, though. His success based on the strategy of highlighting corruption in the House turned into a Republican House besieged by similar corruption. Despite the Contract’s term limits, almost none of the Republican freshmen of 1994 left by 2000. Instead of the promised fiscal responsibility, Congress under George W. Bush increased the deficit at rates not seen since World War II. The new GOP hyperpartisanship, started by Gingrich’s 1994, has grown to epic proportions.

It’s telling that a man who was considered in 1994 to be far more conservative than Reagan ever had been is today being called a RINO by many. He is unlikely to appeal to members of the Tea Party. His conversion to Catholicism may cause unease among the Southern Baptists who represented much of his base in 1994.

His issues with personal morals are likely to hurt him with social conservatives. Despite his refusal to pay court-ordered child support, he said in the mid 90s that “any male who doesn’t support his children is a bum.” His public promotion of monogamy while privately repeatedly engaging in extramarital affairs is unlikely to help, particularly since he left both of his first two wives shortly after learning of their serious illnesses. “In sickness and in health,” indeed.

His temper tantrums don’t bode well for someone whose job is Commander-in-Chief. And his defeat in the government shutdown battle is being discussed in the media now as a cautionary tale, as a repeat may be in the works. According to a recent article by Nate Silver at the New York Times, Newt Gingrich’s candidacy is a dominated strategy, meaning that it is almost certainly a losing proposition regardless of which other Republicans choose to run in the primary.

In the end, this is a man with far more negatives than positives. The more people know about him, the less likely they are to prefer him over Romney or Palin, depending on with which wing of the party they more identify. He is unlikely to win in the primaries, let alone in the general election.


About Michael Weiss

Michael is now located at http://www.logarchism.com, along with Monotreme, filistro, and dcpetterson. Please make note of the new location.
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50 Responses to In This Corner…Newt Gingrich

  1. mclever says:

    Excellent article, Michael. Helped me remember much that I’d forgotten about Newt’s history.

    I agree with Nate. Newt represents a dominated strategy, where he might the second or third choice of several segments of the Republican Party, but he’s the first choice of very few.

  2. filistro says:

    The modern GOP is a many-headed monster, like the mythic hydra. How could the same party offer any level of support to Sarah Palin and simultaneously also take a look at Newt Gingrich? One is anti-science, pro-ignorance and fiercely representative of “family values.” The other is scholarly, supportive of AGW and… well… not exactly a devoted family man.

    How do you even begin to run for the nomination in a fractured party like this? I guess you just have to pick the one of those slimy, writhing heads that you consider presents the best target, and aim for that one while trying not to let the other heads get in your way.

    Private note to rgb… I removed it for you, but regretfully because I liked the sentiment… and the final metaphor was terrific… 🙂

  3. Mainer says:

    If ego level equaled vote getting potential then Newt might stand a chance. But it doesn’t so he doesn’t. We need visionary leaders. Newt’s only vision seems to be the one where he gets power and I fear that for him that is where it stops.

    One thing him being in the game is going to do is to Newter some other candidates dreams of glory. If indeed he runs it will be all in. A head to head with a Palin or any other Republican wanna be could be brutal for I have a problem seeing the Newster being in a prisoner taking mode. But being the raging feminist he is I’m sure he will be kind to Ms. Palin.

  4. rgbact says:

    Thanks Filstro-

    As mentioned, Sarah is far more popular than Newt on blogs I read. But Mitt is hated too. I don’t think Palin runs, so hard to figure who picks up the Palin voters.

    My own sense is if GOP hangs tough on budget cutting, I’ll just go with Romney as the safe choice. But if they fail to cut, Repubs will be hungering for a Chris Christie-type….and Newt is the closest thing I see. I would start pushing the same themes as Christie if I was Newt.

  5. mclever says:

    rgbact,

    How do the Palin-inclined feel towards Huckabee? or Santorum?

  6. filistro says:

    rgb… you understand these people better than I do… could Palin supporters ever bring themselves to cast a vote for Newt or Romney.. or vice versa?

    Could they even agree on someone in the middle like Pawlenty or Daniels?

    As far as I can see, my Freepers are totally committed to staying home and not voting unless the nominee is Sarah Palin or Herman Cain. And a Romney nomination is going to incite civil war.

    Something Dems overlook at their peril, however, is the level of white-hot winger hatred for Obama. They can talk big about staying home, killing RINO’s, better to lose the whole thing than let anotehr RINO win (the Angle-O’Donnell syndrome) … but I think they’d all line up dutifully to vote for Beelzebub if they thought he could beat Obama.

  7. Mule Rider says:

    “How could the same party offer any level of support to Sarah Palin and simultaneously also take a look at Newt Gingrich?”

    Dare I suggest the Republican Party may also have some “big tent” tendencies as their counterparts in the Democratic Party are so often lauded for having?

  8. filistro says:

    @Muley… Dare I suggest the Republican Party may also have some “big tent” tendencies as their counterparts in the Democratic Party are so often lauded for having?

    I don’t think so. “Big tent” implies a level of inclusiveness that welcomes minorities, different philosophies and varying levels of rigidity on social issues. In other words, it means you can have significant differences and nobody really cares.

    A loose collection of warring camps, all at each other’s throats, is not a “big tent.” It’s what is referred to, in technical political terms, as a “big mess.”

  9. rgbact says:

    Mc/Fili-

    Yes, Mitt is more hated than in 2008—but so was McCain, so maybe its a good sign. The hardcore will have to lineup with Newt or Mitt or Pawlenty, as Palin isn’t running. Again–all bets are off if budget cutting fails though. Romney will be just another backstabber then–the base will fume, Palin may even run 3rd party.

    Huckabee’s strength I think is social conservatives, so bloggers/talk radio is not his playing field. Santorum is a zero–but I think he’s also more social than fiscal conservative. That said, he could be this year’s Huckabee if Huck stays out. He’d be a great VP pick either way (from a key state).

    Ususally the establishment wins out over the base (see Howard Dean)…so Romney is still the safe pick. The fact that noone has jumped in implies the insiders have agreed to give Romney as easy a path as possible.

  10. mclever says:

    rgbact,

    Makes sense to me.

    I asked about Santorum, because he’s been hitting the early primary/caucus states hard. That he’s angling for VP seems reasonable.

    My parents are in the Huckabee bubble. They’re both fiscally and socially conservative. They love the Tea Party and think Romney is Clinton in a RINO suit, so I was having a hard time figuring out how to interpret their likely preferences if Huckabee and Palin don’t run. They might be willing to line up behind Pawlenty.

    My money’s on Mitt as the best nominee for the Republicans, but Bush beating McCain in 2000 surprised me, so I’m not as confident in my ability to read the tea leaves, so to speak.

  11. filistro says:

    A right-wing website I’m finding interesting and helpful these days is “truebluefreedom” which has an interesting history… it was formed a couple of months ago by a splinter group of Freepers who were disaffected with Free Republic’s high-handedness and wholesale banning of anybody with even slightly dissenting views. TBF has now poached over 600 members from Free Republic.

    I guess you could call this group slightly more “moderate” than the average Freeper though that seems to be distinction without a difference… it’s like saying somebody is slightly more left than Genghis Khan. (The distinction IS evident in Freeperville, though, which after the diaspora has been left with the pure, refined, tiny glittering black anthracite heart at the very center of wingnuttery.)

    Anyhow, it’s fascinating to click on the topic “Thunderdome: Iowa” and read their opinions on the various candidates. You will see that poor Newt doesn’t get much love from this group.,.. and neither does Mitt.

  12. dcpetterson says:

    I think if Palin doesn’t run, her faction will cluster around Michele Bachmann.

    Here’s a theoretical –suppose Romney or even Newt gets the Republican nomination. Maybe even Pawlenty (but he’s a REALLY long shot). Suppose Palin runs as a 3rd Party candidate. Now, picture the televised Presidential debates. Would Romney or Newt support or oppose Palin’s inclusion in the debate? Would the Republican candidate support Palin’s presence as an additional way to attempt to weaken Obama? Or oppose it, under the fear she would steal votes from the Republicans? What would be the reaction of the Republican faithful if Romney opposed Palin’s participation in the debates, but Obama supported including her?

  13. filistro says:

    Here’s an interesting slant I hadn’t fully considered…

    TPM postulates that the rapidly shrinking field of contenders increases the unpredicability of the race because it frees up large blocks of partisans to support candidates who are SOTR (somebody other than Romney.)

  14. Monotreme says:

    I keep waiting for the Republican Party to split into two factions, and imagining what would precipitate such a split.

    If Obama is seen as unbeatable in 2012, then I think it will happen through one of the scenarios outlined above. Perhaps the core Republicans could unite behind Mittens and then the Palin/Bachmann fringe splits to run their own candidates. Or, the reverse: the Palin/Bachmann wing takes the convention and the moderate Republicans leave in horror and disgust, forming their own party.

    Right now, the only thing that holds the coalition together is that either one is too small to make a viable party on their own. I would interpret this as the reason for the hyper-unity: if even one strays, then the whole house of cards comes down.

    Selfishly, I want to see the party split because I would like to have two choices for elections instead of one or zero. Also, I think that a three-party system is more stable and promotes coalition-building, which is something we sorely need in this country right now.

  15. filistro says:

    @Mono: Right now, the only thing that holds the coalition together is that either one is too small to make a viable party on their own.

    What they don’t realize is that if fiscal conservatives ever had the political courage to dump the socons and start a third party that was fiscally conservative and socially liberal, they would be immediately able to make major inroads amongst Dems and Indies. American politics would explode briefly, then shuffle and re-align into two balanced parties divided along differing views of fiscal policy. The social conservatives (people who base their politics on religion and legislating “morality” rather than the business of running the country) would become a small, regional and increasingly irrelevant third party.

    This would be a Good Thing for America and the rest of the world.

  16. rgbact,

    As mentioned, Sarah is far more popular than Newt on blogs I read.

    I think that says far more about you than it does about Sarah or Newt.

    But if they fail to cut…

    Is that “if they fail to cut at all” or “if they fail to cut at least $100B from Obama’s budget proposal”?

  17. dcpetterson says:

    @filistro

    I think you’re right about what would happen if the fiscally conservative but socially liberal (or moderate) Republicans found the backbone to create a third party. If they did, their symbol should be the RINOcerous (a frighteningly powerful beast indeed!) while the socially conservative nutbats would become increasingly Irrelephant.

  18. mclever,

    My money’s on Mitt as the best nominee for the Republicans

    Given that the PPACA is the lightning rod for the current Obama administration, it seems to me that Romney would end up cutting the one thing Republicans consider to be their biggest weapon against Obama in ’12. It just doesn’t compute to me.

  19. filistro says:

    @dc.. If they did, their symbol should be the RINOcerous (a frighteningly powerful beast indeed!) while the socially conservative nutbats would become increasingly Irrelephant.

    LOL!!! Delicious!

    Also, considering the single large horn which is the salient feature of the rhino… thus giving rise (sorry) to a certain descriptive adjective (sorry again)… then it’s perhaps inevitable that the RINOcerous party should choose Newt as its leader…

  20. mclever says:

    @filistro

    The TPM article does make an interesting point. If all of the SOTR voters are divided, Mitt Romney has a better chance in places like New Hampshire. (He still has his work cut out for him here in Iowa where everyone hearts Huckabee.) But if Huckabee and the other vote siphons don’t run, that would leave a lot of voters scrambling for a second choice. Whoever they united behind (say, Pawlenty) could give Mitt a rougher ride through the rest of the primaries. The SOTR voters will probably latch onto whoever looks like the best challenge to Mitt.

  21. mclever says:

    @Monotreme and filistro

    I would be very surprised if the Republican party split.

    However, I agree that there is certainly room in our political landscape for a Fiscal Conservative + Social Liberal party to carve a home. That’s essentially what most far lefties accused the DLC of being. And there are a fair number of “Libertarian” independents who have similar pro-business, pro-balanced budget, pro-marijuana legalization, anti-government intervention views who might feel more welcome in such a party than they do in either of the current forced choices. If the socially liberal RINOs and the fiscally conservative DINOs got together, it really could force a realignment of our politics.

    And, as filistro noted, that would probably be a good thing. Because, as Monotreme said, a tri-party system would require more coalition-building and compromises, which should improve the national discussion and policy outcomes. Ranting from two extremes would be countered by a sane “grown up in the room” alternative.

  22. mclever says:

    @dcpetterson

    If they did, their symbol should be the RINOcerous (a frighteningly powerful beast indeed!) while the socially conservative nutbats would become increasingly Irrelephant.

    Irrelephant! Best laugh of my morning! I love it!

  23. mclever says:

    @Michael Weiss

    I still think he’s their BEST nominee in the available field, not that he’ll necessarily win the nomination. If the Republican field stays divided with a dozen social conservative and Tea Party agitators splitting their votes, then Mitt would stand a chance to seem like the lone “sane” Republican for the fiscally and socially moderate Republicans to line up behind as “most electable.” But if the social conservatives and Tea Partiers narrow the field too quickly, then that will provide the anti-Romney crowd someone to rally behind, thus undermining his chances. (As noted by filistro’s TPM article.)

    Personally, I think the Republicans have shot themselves in the foot with PPACA opposition. When it passed, they should have been crowing to the stars about the Democrats “caving” to their original counter-proposal from the 90’s. They could have touted it as a big win, emphasizing how they did away with all of the “socialist” policies of the public option and universal Medicare, and especially considering how much of the final bill was technically taken from the Republican playbook. Then, had they done that, they would have had the original author of the first state with PPACA-lite lined up to run against that “weak” Obama who couldn’t get anything he wanted in healthcare reform.

    But that’s not how it played out. Republicans chose to go all-in on the “NObama” route. If they’re still pounding to repeal all of PPACA, I think that will actually impede their chances in 2012, because by then many of the health benefits will be realized by folks who won’t want their kids’ coverage taken away or won’t want to lose their coverage due to “pre-existing” conditions. Too many somnolent moderates will wake up and say, “Hey, you want to take what away?!”

  24. rgbact says:

    Newt’s big plus is the South. South Carolina essentially decides the winner. Would Gingrich’s southern appeal defeat Romney in South Carolina? Not sure why people don’t just skip Iowa and campaign in South Carolina. Iowa rarely picks the winner and its mostly biased to social conservatives.

  25. rgbact,

    Iowa rarely picks the winner and its mostly biased to social conservatives.

    I beg to differ regarding their bias. Andrew Gelman (of Red State, Blue State fame) analyzed the social/economic makeup of the states:

    Iowa is more economically conservative and far less socially conservative than South Carolina.

    Of course, you’re talking about Republicans, so let’s split the parties out:

    It’s harder to see it because of the overlapping states on the chart, but Iowa Republicans are both economically and socially less conservative than their South Carolina counterparts.

  26. mclever says:

    I think the deal with Iowa may be a bit of an East state vs. West state phenomenon. If you draw a north/south line that bisects the state roughly through Des Moines, you’ll find that the eastern half and western half of the state have very different voter profiles.

    All Iowans are above all pragmatic, and they take their role as the first caucus state very seriously. Very. (I wouldn’t have realized how much so until I moved here.) That was how Obama appealed to them in 2008, before everyone fell in love with Hope and Change, it was his pragmatic town halls with local Iowans that won them over. Likewise, Huckabee sounds pragmatic even when he’s talking about things like a national sales tax, so he can appeal to both the social conservatives and the pragmatic moderates. Even the social conservatives here tend towards pragmatism, because farmers have to be pragmatic to be successful.

    The deal is that in the western half of the state, the conservatives tend to be much more socially conservative, white, born-again Christians. In the eastern half of the state (possibly because of the increased interaction with moderate Dems), the conservatives tend to be more libertarian-minded or moderate. The moderate eastern half of the state has much higher population than the farmland of the northwest, so that would explain how, even though some Iowans are extremely fundamentalist and socially conservative, the state (and the Republicans within the state) are more moderate overall.

    Keep in mind that the three judges who ruled to legalize gay marriages in Iowa were all Republicans.

  27. mclever says:

    With how I’ve described Iowa, that is why Huckabee does so well here. He has the southern baptist minister, social conservative bona fides to gain the trust of the northwest conservatives and the pragmatic-sounding message and plain-talking approach to appeal to the rest.

    That’s why I see Newt failing here, even if Huckabee doesn’t run. He says the right things most of the time to appeal to the conservatives, but they don’t trust him. He may be very smart, but he comes across as mean and power-grubbing rather than practical or pragmatic. Even as disliked as Mitt Romney is in northwestern Iowa, he at least sounds reasonable and pragmatic to the moderate conservatives in the eastern part of this state. Without Huckabee and without a full-court press from Romney, I’d bet Pawlenty wins Iowa, assuming he runs.

  28. rgbact says:

    MW-

    Thats a great chart. I think the issue is its a caucus, so you get more hardcore people.
    Pat Robertson finished 2nd, same with Pat Buchanan. Alan Keyes did better than McCain in 2000. Reagan actually lost it in 1980. That compares to South Carolina, which has always picked the GOP winner.

    The issue is whether appealing to social conservatives hurts someone in remaining primaries.

  29. dcpetterson says:

    Re: Iowa and conservativism…

    You have to remember also, Iowa keeps sending Tom Harkin to the Senate. I don’t think may Republicans would consider him to be a conservative.

  30. mclever says:

    @dcpetterson

    Re: Tom Harkin

    Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley. It’s not easy to pidgeon-hole Iowa!

    Although, it seems to me that in the past Mr. Grassley has been more moderate and more pragmatic in his approach. Only in the last few years has he been fishing for votes on the farther right edge of the pond. My guess is that he knows which side the bread is buttered on if he wants national support for his re-election campaigns.

  31. Mainer says:

    rg you could be right about SC but picking the winner from a field that is already narrowed down may help as well.

    This Newt flash is more a premptive strike by Newt than it is any thing else. Some one needs to make a run for it and just maybe get a little of the political oxygen back from the Palins and Bachmanns of the party. At this point you have those that really do want to run for the top slot for various reasons, those that are just positioning for maybe a VP nod and those that appear to just be using the process as yet another way to hold onto the spot light.

    The spot light fixation is hurting those candidates that really do want to run. It is frittering away valuable exposure opportunities and speaking engagements while people cntinue to flock to the various political side shows. It means money is going down dead ends or political rat holes over going to viable candidates to build an organization with and it probably means that the real serious candidates (whom ever they turn out to be) will go into Iowa and NH with out the organization they will need to get a jump start.

    I would also consider the very real possibility that from the Republican side there is going to be such a dillution of effort that it could well limit what might otherwise be possible for say a Pawlenty or a Romney. Romney does have the organizing skills to build a team but do he and Pawlenty or maybe a Daniels have the charisma to fire up people to get out in the cold and go door to door in the snow and cold. I have a hard time finding a sentence any where with the term dynamic and then the possibly electable names.

    Much more likely will be the freeper brigades coming out of the woodwork to push their choice in the very early contests then hitting the Super days and getting bulldozed by whom ever is still standing that has any level of organization. That said I seriously doubt Iowa and NH are going to tell us much this time around and rg if I read SC at all right this may be the election that either busts the prediction cycle you speak of or it is going to determine if the president wins by single or double digits.

  32. dcpetterson says:

    @Mainer –

    You propose an interesting scenario. If the far-far-right Teapers and Freepers dominate the early primaries and caucuses, and then get rolled over on the Super days, how are they going to react? Are they going to back an establishment candidate that crushed their darlings? Are they going to have any money left after pouring it into the early primaries?

    Of course, the Koch Brothers and the obscene amounts of unregulated Citizens United funds will get behind whoever the Republican candidate is. But will that tick off the Teapers and the Freepers even more, getting bulldozed by The Establishment that way?

    I could see an attempt at compromise, with the Republican nominee choosing whoever the TeaFreeper candidate is as the Veep candidate — but will this actually satisfy them? Or will they feel they’re being tossed a stale old bone (shades of Palin in ’10)? Or will they even turn on the rightwing Veep candidate and condemn that person as a sellout?

    This could be the trigger for the formation of a far-right protest party, as happened with the Democrats in ’68 when George Wallace siphoned off a bunch of the Southern Democratic vote.

  33. shortchain says:

    Apparently the excitement is intense. Newt bragged that he’s had 5000 visitors to his website…total… in several days.

  34. shortchain,
    Based on that criterion, I think I should run.

  35. Monotreme says:

    We could run all the 538 mods as a “field” candidate, like at the horse or dog races.

    We offer everything: a wide geographic spectrum, men and women, even the requisite member with questionable citizenship.

  36. Monotreme says:

    Actually, given Citizens United, there may be no legal bar to an LLC running for President. I wonder if the LLC would have to be 35 or just the principals?

  37. dcpetterson says:

    I predicted a while back, on the old FiveThirtyEight, that it was only a matter of time before a corporation is elected president. We are likely to have the next best thing in the next election — a corporate-sponsored candidate, with the primaries presented as a reality show.

  38. shortchain says:

    Michael,

    If you ran, I’d support you.

  39. mclever says:

    I’ll second shortchain’s nomination.

  40. Monotreme says:

    From Twitter.

    @TheOnion
    NEWSWIRE: Gingrich Forms Exploratory Committee To Test Whether Nation Has Forgotten About His Deplorable Personal Life

  41. shortchain and mclever,
    I hereby state, and mean all that I say, that I never have been and never will be a candidate for President; that if nominated by either party, I should peremptorily decline; and even if unanimously elected I should decline to serve.

    Or did someone already say that?

  42. rgbact says:

    Greta grilled Newt about his personal life pretty hard tonite. Not sure how good Newt’s answers were.

  43. mclever says:

    @Michael

    Too bad… Smart, sane people never seem to want to run.

  44. Monotreme says:

    @mclever:

    Smart, sane people never seem to want to run.

    By definition.

  45. Mainer says:

    I find it interesting that some local friends that have been quite fond of Newt for some time are not at this point even tepid in their support for him running for president. Not sure of the reasons but one of them did opine that any one with good access to a wide range of Newt speeches and interviews could throw together a montage of Newt having a debate with himself. I never much cared for Newt as a politician but did find back along that he did have a good if some what convoluted sense of our history with a reasonable grasp of history fact. But at least to me it seems that Newt has fallen prey to wanting his own book of history. Newts statements and positions on the treatment of terrorist suspects and the Muslim center being the two that jump out at me this moment.

    I could give two shits about his family life even as screwed up as it appears to have been, hell I might be considered to have little room to talk from back along, but I never said I was a saint or the embodiment of family virtues and certainly nevr tried to run for office on the premise.

    Can some one with a better memory help me with some thing? I remember back during the last presidential an interview that Newt had with Sean Hanity, hell it was like well over an hour on Sean’s radio show where Newt was again considering a presidential run and he told Sean that if he received X number of millions of dollars in campaign contributions by a certain date that he would run. If I remember correctly he didn’t receive much more than political cab fare and the whole idea disapeared very quietly. So if he couldn’t generate any interest then what makes him think he can do so now. I am willing to bet he is counting on no one remembering that aborted effort as well as a large number of other things.

    What may well be Newt’s trip wire though and the same for some others is going to be the Values Voters get together that is coming right up. Consider this one to be CPAC with the gloves off for the SOCONS. No gays, few if any minorities, and kill a commie for mommy, eradicate Muslims, our government will rise or fall on the abortion issue. If you liked CPAC you will love the values folks………Newt maybe not so much.

  46. Mr. Universe says:

    When Michael first sent me a draft of this article he said Gingrich had more baggage than could fit in the cargo hold of a 747.

    Awesome analogy.

  47. Number Seven says:

    Don’t forget his ‘passion for America’. How can any one defend this POS?

  48. Pingback: Gingrich Makes it Official | 538 Refugees

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