Explaining what Republicans see in Newt Gingrich

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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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.

Matt K. Lewis