Does Gingrich have negative qualities? More than most. Wild statements, alienation of colleagues, reckless gambits. His use of the rhetoric of the left in attacking Bain Capital was a recent faux pas, though one that he quickly backed away from.
But if we are serious -- and there has seldom, if ever, been a time in the history of this nation when it was more necessary to be serious -- then we cannot simply add up talking points for or against a candidate. What matters is how that candidate stands on issues that can make or break the future of this country.
Polls show the public as a whole with more negative attitudes toward Gingrich than toward Romney. But negative opinions, like other opinions, are not set in stone.
If the election campaign changes the opinions of a significant minority of the anti-Gingrich voters -- when the alternative is Obama -- it will not matter how much the remainder may hate Newt.
Is this a gamble? The painful reality is that everyone in this year's field of Republican candidates is a gamble. And re-electing Barack Obama is an even bigger gamble.
Whichever candidate the Republican voters finally choose from this year's field, they are bound to have reservations, if not fears. Gingrich's worst could be worse than Romney's worst, both as a candidate and as a president. But Gingrich's best is much better than Romney's best.
Sometimes caution can be carried to the point where it is dangerous. When the Super Bowl is on the line, you don't go with the quarterback who is least likely to throw an interception. You go with the one most likely to throw a touchdown pass.