FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - Riddle me this, math majors: At what point do multiple quasi-endorsements round up into a full one? Here's Palin's latest flirtation with a full-blown blessing of Newt Gingrich for president, via Fox News:
Her point about Gingrich's debating prowess is well taken, but has some glaring weaknesses, too. I'm also slightly perplexed over how Newt's multi-decade support of an individual mandate and public praise for Romneycare renders him uniquely capable of rejecting Big Government's "mandating what level of healthcare you must purchase." But I'm not interested in debating Sarahcuda point by point here. I am curious as to why she won't simply take the full plunge and do what she's been hinting at for days. Before South Carolina, she flatly stated she would vote for Newt if she were a Palmetto State resident, if only to keep the GOP primary show on the air for a few more weeks. Then came her dramatic Facebook missive lashing out at establishment "cannibals" for using Leftist tactics to smear the former House Speaker (she curiously omitted any mention of these episodes). Now that Palin's adopted the stance that Newt is the guy best positioned to take down Obama in the fall, I don't understand why she isn't joining her husband -- and Herman "I Endorse The People, Gingrich Specifically" Cain -- in extending a formal nod.
Lefties will sneer that she's just stringing the media along for attention, but that's their default position on all things Palin. (I think she relishes keeping them guessing, knowing full well that it annoys them -- which is all kinds of awesome). Within the context of the Republican contest, though, I suspect Palin's doing some strategic hedging. She's no fan of Mitt Romney, but she can read every single new poll, just like the rest of us. If Mitt's up double digits in Florida's closed primary with multi-state election days on the horizon (which shifts things decidedly in the favor of Romney's stellar organization), Palin may not want to go too far out on a limb to back a fading longshot. She's already positioning herself to become a key party uniter once the general election comes a-knockin', and officially riding a losing horse could complicate that role. So although it seems clear that Palin's heart is with Newt, her head may be urging her to remain plausibly neutral. What we're seeing is an attempt to strike a happy medium between those two impulses. Parting thought: Why no Palin love for Santorum?
UPDATE - Newt is on the war path here in Florida. Building momentum, or flailing desperately in the face of these numbers? Does he seriously want to enter into a "character" debate? Ed Morrissey can't quite believe what he's hearing.
UPDATE II - "It is not about winning here anymore," one Romney staffer told BuzzFeed. "It's about destroying Gingrich — and it's working."
UPDATE III - Later in the same interview, Palin explicitly encourages Floridians to vote for Newt, but not necessarily on the merits:
She admitted she’d rather have a candidate who will “rage against the machine” as opposed to one who won’t challenge the status quo. “If for no other reason, rage against the machine, vote Newt. Annoy a liberal, vote Newt.”
Are anti-machine-raging and liberal annoyance sound reasons to cast a presidential ballot? Also, in case you were curious, Palin says she ardently supports Gingrich's multi-billion dollar lunar colony experiment, which Romney, Paul, and Santorum all panned. Interesting. Thoughts, stop-the-spending Tea Partiers?
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