Friday, January 20, 2012

The Decisive Point

Tonight’s GOP debate in South Carolina was a clear win for Newt Gingrich, from the cringe-worthy opening question to the final statement. Considered all but dead a few weeks ago, Newt has reached the decisive point in the race to be the Republican nominee: if he wins this weekend’s Palmetto State primary he will most likely win the the nomination, if he loses his campaign is over and the Romney freight train will roll on to the convention.

So, will he or won’t he? My bet is yes, Gingrich will win. Why? Because Romney showed again tonight the weakness that will keep him off the presidential ballot. He cannot withstand the Left’s attacks on his positions because he does not have an ideological foundation for his positions. His head knows he is right but he doesn’t feel it in his heart; he lacks the courage of his convictions. Romney knows there’s nothing wrong with being very successful, but he really doesn’t have the heart to not just defend his success but to throw it in his attackers’ faces and taunt them with it. I believe this also goes hand-in-hand with his unsuccessful and tepid defense of Romneycare. Mitt isn’t stupid; he realizes that Romneycare was a mistake, but he’s put himself in a position where making that admission means he has to admit he was wrong, and he doesn’t have the courage to do it.

Republican voters aren’t looking for a go-along-to-get-along candidate. They’re angry, fed up with the president and his incompetence, and genuinely frightened about the future of the country. They want a candidate who truly believes what he says, who can clearly defend positions to a hostile media, who will not apologize for holding conservative views. Rick Perry wasn’t articulate enough, Backmann and Santorum aren’t polished enough, Cain wasn’t knowledgeable enough, and Ron Paul comes across as impractical. So, that leaves Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, two men who represent the two conflicting spheres of Republicanism.

Romney represents the pragmatic, moderate sphere… Republicans who have lots of conservative Democrat friends, who generally agree with the Democrat perspective on social mores, who aren’t ideological. In short, the pragmatist sphere, who believe that the problem with government is that it lacks effective management and rational decision-making. Gingrich represents the ideological sphere… Republicans who generally aren’t willing to compromise on principle, who vehemently disagree with their Democrat associates, who reject Democrat social mores. In short, the people who believe the problem with government is that the fundamental direction is wrong, that a radical course of action is needed and now, that half-measures or tweaks aren’t going to fix it, that the proper tool is a chainsaw rather than a scalpel, and that going back to first principles instead of gentle course correction is what is needed.

I believe the massive support for the Tea Party movement among conservatives in general demonstrates the strong desire for a truly transformative president. Just as the disaster of Jimmy Carter led to Ronald Reagan, the debacle that is Obama drives the need for the antithesis… and Romney for all of his virtues and strengths is more like Reagan’s vice-president George H.W. Bush than Reagan. Republican voters have realized this; Mitt Romney has had them looking for another candidate from day 1 to coalesce around… to believe in.

We’ll know on Sunday whether or not they believe in Newt.

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