Jonah Goldberg

The risk for Gingrich is that primary voters may eventually recognize what he's up to. After all, as a purely practical matter, the point of picking a Republican nominee isn't to find the candidate who can beat Obama in a debate but to pick the nominee who can beat Obama in an election (oh, and be a good president too, a worthy subject for another day). Winning debates is great and important -- as Perry has painfully learned -- but they are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves.

It's an open question whether Gingrich can defeat Obama in 2012. It's taken as a truism that he has "too much baggage." Well, some of the baggage is lighter than it appears. He was cleared by the Clinton-era Internal Revenue Service of wrongdoing in alleged ethics violations stemming from a college course he taught in the 1990s. The charge that he surprised his cancer-stricken first wife with divorce papers has been, at the least, exaggerated.

But, as with Kim Kardashian's attic, you can throw away a lot of old baggage and still be left with too much for one person to carry. His marital infidelities, his verbal indiscipline, the strange mix of God and Mammon that is Newt Inc., and his grandiose way of talking about himself as one of the lions of the 20th -- and now 21st -- century: It may just be too much muchness for voters once they're reminded of it all. And, oh boy, would they be reminded of it if Gingrich got the nomination.

On the other hand, this could be Gingrich's moment. Perry was undone by the debates because voters understand that the only way to beat Obama is to take the argument to him, particularly because -- from a Republican perspective at least -- the mainstream media has little interest in holding Obama accountable.

Maybe it is time to cue "Born Free."

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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