Mona Charen

While the nation was digesting its turkey dinner, Rep. Michele Bachmann was seizing an opportunity to score points at Newt Gingrich's expense. Suggesting that his position on illegal immigration amounts to "amnesty," Bachmann predicted that the GOP electorate would "come home" to the person who has been the most "consistent conservative." That would be, she offers, herself.

The voters may not agree with her solution, but many in the GOP do seem to be looking for a -- forgive the expression -- "thrill down the leg" candidate to take on Obama in the general election. Thus, the seismic spikes for Bachmann, Perry, Cain and even, briefly, Trump. It is now, apparently, Newt Gingrich's turn in what Brit Hume called "the single most dangerous place to be in American politics, which is the non-Romney leader in the Republican field."

The adage has it that when the two parties pick their nominees, "Democrats want to fall in love and Republicans want to fall in line." It will probably hold true. But there is more than a whiff of Democrat-style swooning in the Republican contest so far.

The Union Leader's endorsement didn't quite put it the way The Augusta Chronicle did ("Why not Newt?"), but it did cite Gingrich's "courage and conviction." Yet, curiously, within its editorial endorsment, the Union Leader inadvertently cited the best reason not to support Newt Gingrich: " . . . Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running."

Just so, but back to Gingrich.

It isn't the three marriages -- though the hospital visit to discuss divorce proceedings while his first wife was recuperating from cancer surgery is not an agreeable image. It isn't the ethics violation, for which the House Ethics Committee cited him when he was speaker. (The Internal Revenue Service later ruled that he had not violated the tax laws.) And it isn't his position on illegal immigrants with deep roots in America.

Newt Gingrich is a bad bet because he will embarrass the Republican Party. He will do so through things he has already said and done and in ways we cannot predict except to be sure -- because character will win out -- that they will happen.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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