Newt Gingrich, according to some polls, has pulled ahead of Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. So, following form, the news stories are digging up unfavorable material about him.
But there is a difference this time: The stories are about how he has violated conservative orthodoxy: His think tank to propose free market solutions to health care issues once suggested–or maybe even came up with the idea–of mandatory insurance coverage, a hallmark of Obamacare. He once proposed a cap and trade policy to control pollution. He believes or once believed in global warming.
But these attacks may have a different effect: They may make him more electable. They show him not to be the conservative attack dog that he has been stereotyped as being. Rather, he comes across as a pragmatic problem solver who is not as ideological as people might fear.
The problem is that Republican primary voters are dominated by us conservative purists. Whereas the voting public is scared to death of conservative purists. So we have the dilemma of anyone the Republicans may be willing to nominate cannot win, and anyone who could win cannot get the Republican nomination.
The fact is, Newt Gingrich is an idea machine. He just churns them out. (Notice, for example, in the link below, his idea about how school janitors.) And think tanks, which he has been running, are idea factories. Not all of the ideas work or survive long after further reflection. (Who knows if his janitor idea would work?) But Newt is certainly a creative guy with a massive intellect. And certainly our problems today call for those skill sets.
And though one might fault him for having once proposed ideas that conservatives now oppose, no one would surely classify Newt as a liberal or even a moderate. If Newt and Mitt Romney both fall short of conservative purity, surely Newt would be more acceptable, wouldn’t he?
Then again, there is the character issue. Newt has been married three times, has been unmasked as an adulterer, has a reputation for arrogance and for not being disciplined. He has expressed remorse for his misdeeds and has recently converted to Catholicism. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is a Mormon, and in accord with that non-Christian religion, he lives a very moral life. His character, by all accounts, has been stellar, with a strong marriage and a strong family, and no external vices that anyone can see. The man doesn’t even drink coffee.
What do you think? Newt or Mitt?