Jonah Goldberg

But the stop-Newt forces are not synonymous with the stop-Bachmann/Perry/Cain forces. The conservative establishment knows Gingrich, or at least thinks it does. The insiders worry Bachmann, Perry and Cain aren't smart enough or can't beat President Obama. The stop-Newters have no doubts about how smart Gingrich is.

As to whether he can beat Obama, opinions vary. But many feel that a Gingrich victory might be scarier than a GOP defeat. Gingrich's defenders say such fear is a compliment because it shows that he's is a "change agent" threatening the status quo.

They have a point. Inside D.C., it sounds very strange to say that Gingrich is an "outsider." Gingrich has eaten from just about every trough imaginable inside the Beltway. And yet, he's always been very clear that he wants to ("fundamentally," "historically," "categorically" and "radically") overturn the existing order. Some critics always thought, plausibly, that such pronouncements were part of his act or a sign of his megalomania.

But there's another possibility: It's true. Moreover, the times may be ripe for precisely the sort of vexing, vainglorious and all-too-human revolutionary Gingrich claims to be. That's the argument a few people have been wrestling with (most notably John Ellis for RealClearPolitics.com and Steven Hayward for National Review Online). Gingrich, after all, is the only candidate to actually move the government rightward. While getting wealthy off the old order, he's been plotting for decades how to get rid of it. To paraphrase Lenin, perhaps the K Streeters paid Gingrich to build the gallows he will hang them on?

That remains a stretch. Mitt Romney is still the sensible choice if you believe these are rough, but generally sensible, times. If, however, you think these are crazy and extraordinary times, then perhaps they call for a crazy, extraordinary -- very high-risk, very high-reward -- figure like Gingrich.

This helps explain why Newtzilla is so formidable. In order to stop him, you need to explain to very anxious GOP voters that the times don't require him.


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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