Now tea party conservatives are embracing yet another candidate. Except this one will immodestly tell you about his doctorate in European history, his years of college teaching, his experience in policy matters foreign and domestic, and the number of books that bear his name.
“I have given probably 15,000 speeches. I have written 24 books,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich said in a recent appearance on Fox News, discussing his and his wife’s publishing careers. “I am ahead of Callista in that sense — with ‘Sweet Land of Liberty,’ she’s only [had one] number one bestseller. I’ve had 13 bestsellers.”
As the tea party movement surged in 2010, it was often dismissed by liberal critics as an anti-intellectual force led by figures such as Sarah Palin, who has dismissed the importance of answering reporters’ questions or learning the nuances of policy. At times, Cain and Perry seem to have embraced this caricature of the tea party.
But this is a serious misreading of the aims and goals of tea party activists. While it’s still not clear who will capture their vote, one thing is obvious: Playing dumb isn’t the way to win it. One person who understands that well happens to be Gingrich, the candidate now rising in the polls.
“If we nominate somebody utterly inarticulate, Obama gets a billion dollars, he spends two months smearing the Republican Party with negativity, and we have a candidate who can’t debate him — he might pull it off,” the former speaker told Politico.
It didn’t seem likely, as the Republican race got underway this year, that the party would consider someone “utterly inarticulate.” There were a few potential candidates who might have appealed to tea party voters while bringing deep policy knowledge to the contest, but figures such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.)and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels decided not to run.
The result is a Republican race featuring candidates who, because of their policy stances (former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr.) or their personalities (former Minnesota governor and consummate nice guy Tim Pawlenty), have not delivered the type of firebrand conservatism that the tea party movement prefers.
Romney has rarely wooed the tea party directly. The former governor is trying to win over the rest of the GOP and assuming the tea party will come to him once he clinches the nomination.