Matt Lewis

Explaining what Republicans see in Newt Gingrich

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Matt K. Lewis
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      Matt K. Lewis

      Matt K. Lewis is a senior contributor to The Daily Caller, and a contributing editor for The Week. He is a respected commentator on politics and cultural issues, and has been cited by major publications such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. Matt is from Myersville, MD and currently resides in Alexandria, VA. Follow Matt K. Lewis on Twitter <a>@mattklewis</a>.

A lot of people I talk to can’t fathom why Newt Gingrich is actually winning. The latest narrative — and I think there’s truth in it — is that voters are hungry for someone who will “take it to Obama.” Clearly, Gingrich’s debating ability is key. Republicans are champing at the bit to see him debate Obama. But I think this urge is deeper than a desire to simply watch him beat up or attack the president rhetorically — they also want him to intellectually flatten him — to out-debate him.

There are other reasons. Some voters are romantic; they want to believe in something. They want to be (as unconservative as it may sound) a bit revolutionary. There’s nothing romantic or revolutionary about Mitt Romney. Gingrich supporters may be deluding themselves, but he is, at least, exciting. He has panache.

He’s also a happy warrior. He has energy. He loves campaigning. It makes him stronger, not weaker. And it shows.

… And, of course, there’s the fact that Gingrich just had good timing. He peaked at the right time.

The last — and probably most important argument for Newt Gingrich — is that he’s not Mitt Romney. And if you buy the argument that this is now a two-man race, that might be a deciding factor. Time is dwindling. Newt may be the only alternative — so maybe he’s not so bad? (The Germans have a word for this: Mut der Verzweiflung — the courage born of desperation.)

Without endorsing Gingrich or Romney, Charles Krauthammer does a good job this week of explaining why — despite all his baggage and obvious problems — a vote for Gingrich isn’t absurd.

As Krauthammer notes,

Gingrich’s apostasies are seen as deviations from his conservative core — while Romney’s flip-flops are seen as deviations from . . . nothing. Romney has no signature achievement, legislation or manifesto that identifies him as a core conservative.

That is well put, and I don’t recall anyone else having made the point as eloquently.

Krauthammer also concludes his column by noting: “Every conservative has thus to ask himself two questions: Who is more likely to prevent that second term? And who, if elected, is less likely to unpleasantly surprise?”

That last sentence is the reason Gingrich has a chance.