14 April 2010

Gingrich is starting to pre-campaign

I know, we're not even past the midterms yet. But since the potential candidates aren't waiting, why should we?

The Southern Republican Leadership Conference was recently held. And the candidates were off and running, particularly Gingrich.

Now, it's no CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), but then even CPAC wasn't really CPAC this past year - it seems like a lot of the energy was stolen by the Tea Partiers, and what energy remained was quietly restrained in the aftermath when Ron Paul took the CPAC straw poll. The GOP has always been uncomfortable with the Paulite's immense ground movement, and so they didn't churn up as much post-CPAC enthusiasm so as not to encourage him.

But the SRLC has loomed large this time around. And of particular interest was Gingrich. If you look at the media coverage, a lot of it focuses on Palin. That makes sense: Palin is extremely interesting and attention-grabbing. But only slightly less interesting is Gingrich - especially since he's started to try to spin the past.

In a recent newsbite, Gingrich says:
At a luncheon at the Heritage Foundation -- his second meeting with conservative journalists and bloggers today -- Newt Gingrich expanded a bit on his argument, made most recently at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, that a new Republican Congress could roll back the Democrats' victory on health-care reform by refusing to fund it. I asked Gingrich how this would work, given the experience of Republicans in the winter of 1995 when a showdown over the budget forced a government shutdown.

"Wait a second," said Gingrich. "This is the standard, elite, inside-the-Beltway worldview. Tell me in what way we didn't win. After that, we got to a balanced budget. And what happened to the Republican majority?" The answer, of course, is that Republicans held the majority in 1996, while President Bill Clinton was reelected.

"I've always been amazed at this," said Gingrich. "Frankly, I was getting beaten up so bad that year -- there were 121,000 ads run against me around the country, and you had 83 ethics charges being filed -- everything being done, correctly in my judgment, piling on me, because they thought it was easier to beat me up than to the attack the message. And that actually did demoralize many Republicans. ... I kept thinking to myself, let me get this straight. We took a liberal Democratic president and stopped him in his tracks. We got on track for four years of balanced budgets. We had the slowest rate of increase [in spending] since Calvin Coolidge. And we reelected a Republican Congress for the first time since 1928. Which of those is bad?"
Given that it's been accepted as a given that the struggle led in no small part to the Clinton victory the next year, and certainly helped crush Gingrich's career for more than a decade, it's pretty clear that this is the start of an attempt at spin. Look for some highly-placed outrage-filled columns demanding to know why Gingrich isn't given credit for his efforts, and laying all the credit for the economic surges and surpluses of the late nineties at the feet of Newt. It won't matter how counterfactual this is... I'm calling it right now, you'll see these pieces. Actually, I'll predict right now that David Brooks will write this column.

That said, Gingrich is the only major Republican politician more divisive than Palin, and he has zero chance at the nomination - no matter what he thinks. Nor does it help his cause to abandon the "man of ideas" facade and try to be a second-rate Palin, like his blustering denunciation of Obama would make him out to be ("secular socialist President"!)

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