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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 01:34 PM ET, 01/23/2012

Newt Gingrich as contender: A Credulity Check


Who gets Newt? (Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
When everyone said Newt Gingrich’s presidential hopes were in trouble last spring, who could blame them? Gingrich, after all, had watched his campaign team fall apart. He was making tactical errors that landed in headlines. And he took a Greek vacation not long after he announced his candidacy.

The guy clawed his way back into the race by year’s end, surging prior to Iowa, only to de-surge a bit after sustaining a blitz of negative advertising. He placed fourth in Iowa, just far enough down for a squad of pundits to count him out. Herewith a breakdown of their comments, with the helpful use of the trademarked Credulity Checker, a machine that evaluates commentators’ susceptbility to conventional wisdom.

Explainer: Each pundit remark is followed by a Credulity Count, with “10” signifying complete purchase of conventional wisdom about Newt Gingrich and “1” signifying actual wisdom.

Dr. Geoffrey Garrett on ABC*, Jan. 5:

Newt Gingrich, the other plausible conservative, it seems now looks like he’s out of the race. He’s indicated he’s going to support Rick Santorum, the latest of these meteoric-rise Republicans from the right. He’ll attack Romney.

Credulity Count: 8.75. Never heard of Dr. Geoffrey Garrett? Well, then you’re not consuming enough Australian media. Garrett made these remarks on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation — and he should consider that Newt supports no one else till all his options are closed off.

Dana Loesch, CNN, Jan. 3:

Rick Santorum cannot take out Mitt Romney. Neither can Ron Paul. Neither can Newt Gingrich.
Perry seems to me one of the stronger candidates to take out Mitt Romney.

Credulity Count: 8.74. What a January for Loesch. First you predicate your punditry on a guy who’s about to withdraw from the race; then you cheerlead for peeing on the dead.

Al Hunt, Charlie Rose Show, Jan. 3:

I just think Newt Gingrich is — is — and I`m sorry, he had his moment and it was negative ads to be sure, but there was a case to be made. And as — as Rich or someone said he had acquitted himself so poorly he tends not to do well when there`s pressure. I think Newt Gingrich is — is history.

Credulity Count: 8.0. Fails under pressure, huh? Hunt must’ve falled out of his chair when he saw Gingrich deliver no-stammer attacks on Juan Williams and John King in live debates.

Don Imus, Imus in the Morning, Jan. 4:

So, Gingrich is done, right, or no?

Credulity Count: 7. Loaded question reveals lack of appreciation of how an angry man with an alleged media vendetta can turn things around in a state like South Carolina.

Mark Halperin, Charlie Rose Show, Jan. 3:

Mitt Romney believes, his campaign believes that they can beat Rick Santorum pretty handily one on one and the two candidates they fear the most, who they thought had a theoretical possibility of beating them, Newt Gingrich and the Rick Perry leave here weakened. On the other hand the other reason Romney is a winner is I don`t think either Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich will get out of this race which means even if Michele Bachmann does Romney goes into Iowa and then New Hampshire and then South Carolina as the only establishment candidate with three more conservative candidates trying to divide up, most likely will divide up the vote the way they did here.
He could win South Carolina with the same kind of percentage or even a lower one than he got, than he got a victory or second place in Iowa.

Credulity Count: 5. The politics of division often don’t lend themselves to simple math. (Later in the segment, Halperin does say Gingrich is a factor)

Dick Morris, Fox News, Jan. 4:

You look at South Carolina. Now Gingrich is at 40. Romney is at 20. Well, if Gingrich has to share his 40 with Santorum, it will be a three-way tie at 20. And that’s in a conservative state that is not...

Credulity Count: 5. Actual South Carolina results---Gingrich, 40; Romney, 28; Santorum, 17.

Nancy Cordes, CBS, Jan. 5:

Mm.

Credulity Count: 2.5. Those two letters are how Cordes responded to this question: “Newt Gingrich is talking about going negative. How is he going to do it without any money?” Why don’t more pundits do this?

John Dickerson, CBS, Jan. 6:

Newt Gingrich is also in the mix in South Carolina. The only thing that might change this a little bit is that Newt Gingrich is now kind of a wounded and angry elephant going after Romney here. And he’s going after him pretty hard calling him a Massachusetts liberal, going down the line on his issue positions and attacking him quite hard. And we’ll see what that does, although it — it’s unlikely to derail him but it`s likely to make it unpleasant between now and when it all gets settled.

Credulity Count: 1.732. Weeks before the events of South Carolina, Dickerson describes the events of South Carolina. With whom does he share the ability to “see slightly over the horizon“?

Karl Rove, the Willis Report, Jan. 4:

My sense is — you know, the last poll we’ve got is some days old, some weeks old. My sense is that we’re likely to see [Gingrich] back in a close match with Romney and perhaps even with Santorum, given his burst in public attention.

Credulity Count: 1.6. Rove, showing a Dickersonian grasp of the future, in fewer words.

Matthew Dowd, Bloomberg, Jan. 3:

DOWD: Well, I think that - Newt Gingrich, I still think there is another chapter for Newt Gingrich because when you look, even though he has fared poorly in the last week or so in Iowa, he still either leads or is tied nationally in this race. And so you cannot ignore that.
And so if you take a look after Iowa and after New Hampshire, I think Newt Gingrich has to make a stand in South Carolina and Florida. So I think there may still be a chapter for Newt Gingrich in this race.

Credulity Count: 1.24. Highest Credulity Checker rating in history---punditary perfection.

By  |  01:34 PM ET, 01/23/2012

 
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