Jonah Goldberg

The Republican presidential logjam has finally broken.

Donald Trump, who believes not only that he would make the best president but that he could win, declined to run because making money is his true "passion." It's as if Cincinnatus loved his plow too much.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also bowed out, with class and dignity even his friend Trump could not buy.

Ron Paul, the libertarian Harold Stassen, is in for another go, presumably on the mistaken assumption that America has turned into Tea Party Nation. (If only!)

And then there's Newt Gingrich.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," the former House speaker -- a man who has spent much of the last decade declaring the need for radical transformation of this, that and the other thing -- denounced Paul Ryan's Medicare proposals as too "radical" and nothing less than "right-wing social engineering." He also came out in favor of an individual mandate for health insurance.

This last bit of news was no doubt greeted with jubilation in the Mitt Romney camp, given that Romney had only days earlier given a speech defending his own landmark achievement -- a state-based individual mandate that helped inspire "Obamacare." By my count, Romney's speech bombed with 9 out of 10 conservatives (the 10th being influential conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt).

To have Gingrich out there defending the mandate -- and by extension Romney -- had to have the former Massachusetts governor jumping for joy so high his hair might actually have moved.

By midday Monday, however, Gingrich was reversing himself in response to a deluge of criticism. But the damage was done. The simple fact is that despite Gingrich's immense talents and achievements, Ryan -- who's not even in the race -- is more popular than Gingrich among conservatives. It's hard to throw someone under the bus when it's not your bus. More to the point, Gingrich reinforced the impression that his mouth deserves a patent as a perpetual motion machine.

Still, the real significance of the last week or so is not the breaking up of the political logjam of candidates but of the policy logjam.

Not only did Romney and Gingrich blur the lines between the GOP and Barack Obama, they also sharpened the distinctions between themselves and the rest of the GOP field.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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