Former Speaker of the House and 2012 Republican presidential nomination contender Newt Gingrich’s remarks about the Rep. Paul Ryan budget plan had upset a lot of conservatives. Some leading opinion makers on the right have declared his candidacy over as a result.
Was it a lapse of judgment on Gingrich’s part, or something else? On his Tuesday program, conservative Rush Limbaugh floated a theory. According to him, it could have been a strategic move if Gingrich is no longer taking himself seriously as the next president of the United States.
“I mentioned yesterday that, I talked about the phenomenon known as niche marketing – niche programming in terms of radio programs,” Limbaugh said. “There’s a lot of that going on. I think that goes on in politics. I think people seek unexploited areas to try to fill a void that exists. For example, if the Republican field is already viewed as chocked full of middle-of-the-road mainstream conservatives. Does it make sense to enter the field as one of those, or maybe find a niche where you are in your mind a mainstream conservative, but differ in two or three areas – enough so that you are not called in a derogatory way a typical right-winger.”
Rush said it isn’t the first time Newt has upset conservatives.
“It’s not unprecedented behavior for Newt — not the first time,” he said. “We have the Newt and Hillary show. We’ve had the Newt and Pelosi show. And don’t forget, we had the Newt and Dede Scozzofava show, if you’ve forgotten.”
“Of all the things we know about Newt Gingrich, we know he’s not stupid,” he said. “What do you think, as he looks at the Republican presidential field and the whole prospect of the presidential election, what do you think he really thinks about his prospects? The rule of thumb, the conventional wisdom is that people that do this, people that actually subject themselves to the media anal exam, people that subject themselves to the lifestyle change, the never-ending energy required to not only run a campaign, but then if you win it, your life not only changes forever for at least four years and you hope eight. People that do this don’t generally do it hoping to lose. Now some of them do it knowing they’re not serious. They’re using it for other reasons – to make themselves known, to have on their resume ‘former presidential candidate’ so they can get invited as never-ending revolving guests on cable shows and so that the graphic will be former presidential candidate.”
Limbaugh explained that on the other end of the spectrum, there are people who are serious about winning the presidency and disciplined in their campaigns. And Limbaugh said that six to eight weeks ago, Gingrich told him he thought he was a serious candidate, but the latest round of behavior from Gingrich suggests otherwise.
“Now my theory is based on the belief that Newt knows his chances of winning the nomination are tiny,” Limbaugh said. “If I’m wrong about this then the rest of the theory falls apart, and I have to remind you I’ve spoken to him about this. When I spoke to him six weeks, eight weeks ago, I mean he was of the mind it was already done. Winning the nomination was a formality. The field was weak. He was head and shoulders above anybody in the field in his mind. So he had to go through the nomination process, in his mind that was a fait accompli. He was already planning his campaign and life as the nominee at this breakfast.”
Limbaugh said the motivation behind this most recent switch was an effort to win the so-called John McCain-wing of the GOP, the moderate Republicans. Conventional wisdom would suggest former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty would have that segment sewn up, but Limbaugh explained Pawlenty is trying to distance himself from it. Thus, that segment was Newt’s for the taking.
And the things Gingrich said to “Meet the Press” host David Gregory about “social engineering” weren’t meant to resonate with Republican primary voters, but another audience.
“He has to know now after that that his belief on not being part of right-wing social engineering, slap at [Rep. Paul] Ryan, he has to know that’s not going to resonate with Republican primary voters,” Limbaugh said. “He knew it before he made the statement. But who does it resonate with? Who has the potential to like that? The power elite in 2012 and beyond, the establishment, D.C., the ruling class. They’ll eat a statement like that up.”
By winning that audience, Limbaugh said, Gingrich would get attention and stand out from the field.
“If Newt can provoke attack from the conservative Republican contenders and even from the rank-and-file voters by trodding on their sacred cows, which is what he did – there’s no denying it,” Limbaugh said. “He trodded on some sacred cows as defined by this campaign. So be it if he does that. It gives him some visibility. In some people’s eye, it makes him reasonable. With this crowd that I’m talking about, it is a resume enhancement to be criticized by me. And rises above the field with this kind of stuff.”
Limbaugh said Gingrich knows this strategy isn’t a winning one in the short run, but it does consider Gingrich’s long-term interests.
“Now you’re not going to win the nomination with this strategy,” Limbaugh said. “We all agree with that, right? You’re not going to win the nomination with it. So what is he doing? This gives him a slim chance at something else and in his mind he could have him perfectly hedged when he loses. He could end up being, like McCain used to be, the darling of the establishment – media, corporate, academic. McCain was until he ran, and then abandoned – you know he was out there proudly saying the media was his base until it came time to run. When it came time to run, McCain abandoned all of that and tried to become one of us. Newt’s doing the exact opposite.”