Really liked this Chait point on Newt, as I think it suggests why (and it’s perfectly reasonable) may be under-valuing his chances:
If Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain had never thought about running for president, pretty much everybody would now see Newt Gingrich as the Republican front-runner. He’s soaring in the national polls and building a large lead in the early states, while his main competitor, Mitt Romney, continues to sag.
Very true. And, I think unlike the others, News is the real deal, as where else are the anti-Romney forces supposed to go now? Santorum? Paul? Another Mormon who’s conservative credentials are even more questionable? Still, that is a pretty big “if” as we’ve seen it the putative votes of the Tea Party types are highly volatile. Would not seem crazy for Newt to implode and those voters to come back to Perry or even someone else. Romney may well win the nomination– make that probably will– but it will be without Tea Party support.
Chait then goes through the various explanations for why News will ultimately fail. Here’s the one I find most persuasive even if Chait doesn’t:
The GOP Establishment hates him. Jonathan Bernstein has made the most confident version of this argument, though others have echoed it as well. Bernstein argues that Republicans understand how erratic and ineffective Gingrich is, and won’t let him get the nomination. I see a couple flaws in this assumption. First, insiders can’t always get their way. The party elite knew full well in 2010 that nominating candidates like Joe Miller in Alaska, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware was suicidal. They just couldn’t sway the voters not to nominate them in primaries. And presidential nominations are just a series of primaries. (What’s more, presidential primaries are connected, so that a candidate who wins one can more easily gain momentum and win others.)
Second, we can’t assume that the party insiders will be thinking with perfect clarity about Gingrich’s qualifications. They didn’t stop mendacious buffoon Sarah Palin from getting the vice-presidential nomination – a choice that hurt the party badly. They picked Newt Gingrich as their leader in 1994. Now, both those figures only displayed some of their zany tendencies at the time, but the Republican elite’s crazy radar does not seem to be the most finely tuned instrument.
I think the big point is that insiders don’t, in fact, always get their way. Thing is, in presidential nominations, they pretty much always do. On the other hand, I’ve already mentioned that my lecture notes on presidential primaries are already in for big revisions based on the 2012 campaign so far. At this point, “pretty much always do” just doesn’t seem to hold up so well in 2012. Truthfully, almost nothing would surprise me.
And, for the record, Romney’s lead over Newt on Intrade has fallen to a not exactly overwhelming, 45-35.