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Right Turn
Posted at 01:05 PM ET, 01/20/2012

Republicans agree with Santorum: Gingrich’s a disaster

I spoke to Henry Barbour by phone today as he was driving across South Carolina. Barbour, the nephew of the former governor of Mississippi, is an experienced political hand and has been involved in GOP campaigns for over 15 years.

Barbour had been with Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign but didn’t follow his former candidate over to Newt Gingrich. He is bracingly candid: “I believe Newt would be a disaster for our party. He is too polarizing a figure to win independent voters we need.”

Barbour thinks Gingrich’s negatives would pull down the entire GOP ticket. “He would put the House heavily in play,” he said. The Republicans would also, in his view, lose any chance to capture the Senate.

No one should underestimate Gingrich’s ability to throw red meat to the base, and his media-bashing may be enough to win South Carolina. But as the Marianne Gingrich allegations percolate through the electorate and as a more vivid picture of Gingrich’s manic style of leadership plays out, it is hard to see that Gingrich would gain the confidence of GOP voters, for whom electability is paramount.

Quin Hillyer, who was on the Hill in the 1990s as a staffer to Rep. Robert Livingston (R-La.), has a must-read description of the utter chaos that Gingrich created then for fellow Republicans. It must be read in full, but a brief excerpt will give you the gist:

The joke going around in the late 1980s was that the NRCC had a whole room full of file Cabinets, with every drawer in the room labeled “Newt’s ideas.” Well, every drawer but one. The drawer in the bottom corner of the dingiest file cabinet was labeled “Newt’s good ideas.” . . .
Gingrich was great at rabble rousing. He was awful at actually managing things. That’s why, again, in the single campaign where he was clearly, unambiguously unchallenged as the architect of national GOP campaign strategy, in 1998, he took a lay of the land that virtually every pundit in the land thought would create at least a 15-seat Republican net gain in the House (Gingrich himself predicted as much as a 30-seat gain), and turned it into a five-seat loss that came within a hair’s breadth in about four races of blowing the entire House majority.
Meanwhile, how can people say he has “changed” or “grown” or “matured”? It was less than a year ago that he was trashing Paul Ryan’s budget as “right-wing social engineering.” It was as recently as 2010 that he was still endorsing a version of the individual health-care mandate. It was just last week that he was attacking Bain Capital from an extreme, left-wing position. Sorry, but that ain’t maturation — and it might explain why he took a 20-point lead in Iowa and a tied-for-lead in New Hampshire and, within about three weeks time, turned them into, respectively, fourth- and fifth-place finishes there. Only in his own backyard, in a state (South Carolina) neighboring his longtime Georgia home, could he hope to be competitive.

Barbour and Hillyer, two solid Southern conservatives who have been witness to the Gingrich years, forcefully support the argument that Gingrich is simply a non-starter as a presidential nominee. Whether voters will be receptive to that message is to be determined. But there is near-unanimity among Republicans who know Gingrich best that Rick Santorum’s searing indictment of Gingrich’s character and conduct was deadly accurate.

By  |  01:05 PM ET, 01/20/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign

 
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