In 1995, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich banned proxy votes in committees. That meant no longer could powerful chairmen (for 40 years previous, all Democrats) cast votes for lawmakers who skipped out on the marking-up of legislation.

This is ironic because the reason Gingrich is the Republican presidential front-runner today is that several big-name Republicans essentially cast their proxy vote for him.

Gingrich would not be where he is today—ahead in Iowa, closing fast in New Hampshire, and untouchable in South Carolina—if other Republicans who skipped out on the race had shown up.

Imagine for a moment a debate stage that includes Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Does anyone believe that Gingrich, after a summer of staff defections, Tiffany trifles, and Greek isle idleness, would stand a chance in a field of these GOP heavyweights? If you do, you’ve probably digitized all of Gingrich’s GOPAC cassette tapes and believed—as Gingrich did back then—that Republicans had a chance to win the House in 1990 and 1992 (the GOP finished with 167 and 176 seats, respectively).