Jonah Goldberg

That's the great thing about Gingrich: He can make describing himself as the divine manifestation of the vox populi sound self-deprecating. Still, he's basically right. He's managed to transform into a spokesman for all of the rank and file's frustrations, insecurities and grievances as well as their hopes and ideals.

He never could have pulled it off were it not for Romney's shortcomings. For whatever reason, Romney seems like a creature put on Earth to blend in with the humans and report back what he finds. He clearly likes earthlings, and they in turn find him pleasant enough, and surprisingly lifelike. Occasionally he finds the right words, but he rarely connects them to the right tone. This dearth of convincing passion in the front-runner makes the passionate base of the party want to look elsewhere -- even to Newtzilla.

Which is why he's surging in Florida, beating Romney overall and, in one poll, among nearly every demographic, including women and minorities -- even though Romney has been saturating Florida with ads for nearly a month. The Romney campaign and his super PAC are firing at will with negative ads.

But such conventional weapons probably won't do the trick this time. They might even backfire, either by turning off voters or by making Newtzilla angry.

Romney's challenge is greater than he realizes. Long unable to connect with voters on his terms and his timetable, he must now try with time running out, and without seeming desperate.

No doubt there's a temptation in the Romney camp to out-populist Gingrich, to beat him at his own game. It would be a good strategy if Romney was up to the task. But my hunch is that we would only see an unconvincing animatronic impersonation, a MechaNewtzilla, if you will.

Right now, Romney's best hope is time, because history shows the only thing that can truly defeat Newtzilla is Newtzilla himself. The question is, is there time?


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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