The "progressive" line and Obama's toxic blessing are simply haunting. Of course, this attack is coming from Newt Gingrich, who supported a federal healthcare mandate for decades, all the way up through 2008. And who made the conscious decision to cut an ad with Pelosi in favor of climate change legislation. That's the new "true conservative" frontrunner, friends. What a field. I'm beginning to agree with the Journal's Bret Stephens, though I don't quite share his malignant pessimism:
Voters instinctively prefer the idea of an entertaining Newt-Obama contest—the aspiring Caesar versus the failed Redeemer—over a dreary Mitt-Obama one. The problem is that voters also know that Gaius Gingrich is liable to deliver his prime-time speeches in purple toga while holding tight to darling Messalina's—sorry, Callista's—bejeweled fingers. A primary ballot for Mr. Gingrich is a vote for an entertaining election, not a Republican in the White House.
Then there is Mitt Romney, even now the presumptive nominee. If Mr. Gingrich demonstrated his unfitness to be a serious Republican nominee with his destructive attacks on private equity (a prime legacy of the Reagan years), Mr. Romney has demonstrated his unfitness by—where to start? Oh, yes, the moment in last week's debate when Mr. Romney equivocated about releasing his tax returns. The former Massachusetts governor is nothing if not a scripted politician, and the least one can ask of such people is that they should know their lines by heart. Did nobody in Mr. Romney's expensive campaign shop tell him that this question was sure to come, and that a decision had to be made, in advance, as to what the answer would be? Great CEOs don't just surround themselves with consultants and advance men. They also hire contrarians, alter egos and at least someone who isn't afraid to poke a finger in their chest. On the evidence of his campaign, Mr. Romney is a lousy CEO.
But it's worse than that. The usual rap on Mr. Romney is that he's robotic, but the real reason he can't gain traction with voters is that they suspect he's concealing some unnameable private doubt. Al Gore and George Bush Sr. were like that, too, and not just because they were all to the proverbial manor born. It's that they were basically hollow men. Thus the core difference between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama: For the governor, the convictions are the veneer. For the president, the pragmatism is. Voters always see through this. They usually prefer the man who stands for something.
Romney's supporters are preparing to counter-punch with a boatload of new ads in Florida, Nevada, Michigan, and Arizona. Message: Mitt's not going away any time soon. I wouldn't be surprised if they contained a few pull-quotes from yesterday's unsparing National Review editorial:
There is much more to general elections than debates, and there is much more to the presidency than giving speeches. On an intellectual level Gingrich knows this, but he has little experience either in contesting elections with large numbers of voters of varying views or in running large organizations. Romney has executive experience, unlike Gingrich or Santorum, and in past elections voters have seemed to value that experience. But at least Santorum, like Romney, has been elected to statewide office before, and like Romney has shown himself able to reach beyond the Republican base in doing so. Santorum’s record in this regard beats Romney’s, since Santorum won statewide in Pennsylvania twice. Only Gingrich has never been elected to office from anything larger than a congressional district; only Gingrich has never had to reach beyond the Republican base vote to win an election.
Gingrich has been a nationally known figure for a long time: when the economy was booming and when it has been in a slump; when Republicans were on top and when the public disliked them; when the national mood was sunny and when it was sour. Amid all the tumult of the last 18 years there has been this constant: Gingrich has never been popular. Polls have never shown more than 43 percent of the public viewing him favorably at any point in his career. Gingrich backers say that he is inspiring. What he mostly seems to inspire is opposition. It should go without saying that Gingrich also offers more material than the other candidates for Democrats to drive his numbers in the wrong direction. Any Republican nominee will draw criticism for being too biased toward the rich. Not every Republican nominee will be attacked for cruelty in his personal life.
UPDATE - Which notorious RINO establishment figure said this?
"Mitt Romney is no Charlie Crist. Romney is a conservative. And he was one of the first national GOP leaders to endorse me."
Click through for the answer.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography