Why Newt Gingrich Probably Still Is the Candidate with the Most to Offer Conservatives

Conservatives at this hour need to be asking themselves two questions:

  1. Why has Mitt Romney been stuck with Republican support in the low 20 percent range for, like, forever?
  2. Why has every candidate who has threatened Mitt Romney lost traction within a few weeks of gaining momentum?

Finding the right answer to these inter-linked questions is like shooting fish in a barrel. It has two parts, one for each question:

First, the “Republican establishment inside the Beltway” wants Romney. Second, true conservatives—those of us planted firmly at the grassroots of the recent Great American Conservative Movement—do not want Romney. What puts officious conservatives at odds with real conservatives in this equation is something that both know: Mitt Romney is not a conservative. The strongest evidence that Romney is not a true conservative, and is therefore a poor choice for ousting Obama, is that he is stuck with low numbers in polls among registered Republicans.

But here’s the secret that “establishment Republicans” and all the liberals themselves do not want conservatives to sort out before it’s too late: Mitt Romney can win the nomination with puny poll numbers as long as conservative support continues to be spread out over several conservative candidates. Add up the collective support for conservative candidates and Romney’s numbers don’t mean zilch.

So conservatives need to wise up, and they need to get with it soon. In Iowa, this means the next few days—five days, if you want to be exact.

Here’s what needs to happen:

One of the conservative Republican candidates needs to be swarmed with support by the conservative base. This candidate needs to have the full complement of tools to take the fight to Obama and the liberal left. The candidate has to be perceived as a serious threat to the establishment. The candidate must be able to tip the scales decisively as a bold, articulate, well-informed, and scrappy individual whose own policies are as far apart from Obama’s as you can imagine.

Who disagrees? That’s what I thought.

Next question: Who might that be?

This isn’t rocket science.

We can dispense with Ron Paul immediately. A vote for Ron Paul is a vote for Obama. Period. I wouldn’t be surprised if the alleged Ron Paul supporters would vote for Obama in the general election if Ron Paul himself won the Republican nomination!

Who’s next? Consider Rick Perry. He’s trying to come from so far behind, and for good reason, that he should give it up and go home now.

That other guy, the former governor from Utah—you know, what’s-his-name. He hasn’t experienced the slingshot effect at all throughout this process, and he isn’t going to, either. So count him out. And I mean, count him out by not voting for him in your caucus or your primary. (This is offered in the spirit of a helpful suggestion.)

We come, then, to two look-alikes (as far as politics are concerned): Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum. Now these are two candidates who represent a lot for conservatives to like. And until Santorum’s “sort-of surge” in Iowa polls, he and Bachman have run similar numbers in the polls. They both know that they need a strong showing in Iowa. In other words, they have to come out as the big surprise in Iowa so that the rest of the nation will sit up and give them a second look. The trouble for them is, only one of them can do this or the strategy fails . . . decisively. And at this moment in time, a critical moment at that, it looks like it’s Santorum who has the wind at his back. But that’s if we’re comparing him with Bachman.

I like Michelle Bachman. I was impressed with her first appearance in the debates, and I thought she acquitted herself well most of the time. Sure, she’ll stand up to Obama. But it won’t look like much of a threat, I’m afraid. And it’s kind of embarrassing to hear her saying these days that she wants to be “the Iron Lady of the United States,” comparing herself to Margaret Thatcher (who was a great partner with Reagan on the international stage in the 1980s). As determined as she is, Bachman just doesn’t have the gravitas to run the gauntlet and win. (At one time I thought she might make a good vice presidential candidate, but now I’m not so sure.)

I predict that Michelle Bachman will be out of the running soon after Iowa. In light of the urgent need for consolidation behind a conservative candidate, opposite Romney, it would make sense for her to step out gracefully now. She doesn’t really show any inclination to do that, so it will be up to Iowans, even those who like her, to help her make this vital decision.

At this point, this would probably consolidate votes around Rick Santorum. Rumor has it that some leading evangelicals in Iowa have urged one of the two candidates to step away from the fray. They apparently—and correctly—perceive the threat the two of them pose to a sound defeat of Romney in their state caucus.

Santorum might not benefit as much from a Bachman withdrawal if she declared her support for someone else, like Newt Gingrich, for example. How much this would help Gingrich is hard to say. And whether Bachman could back away from her severe criticism of Gingrich in recent days and throw her support with him is doubtful. Newt will have to fend for himself, I’m afraid.

And so we come to Newt Gingrich. If it comes down to Rick vs. Newt for grassroots conservatives, what happens?

Here’s something to chew on, slowly and methodically: Rick has never garnered high poll numbers at the national level. Notice, his “surge” is limited to Iowa. This is probably because of his single-minded calculation to woo Iowans, in hopes of emerging as the Republican surprise that he needs to be to gain any traction. Newt, on the other hand, recently enjoyed a fantastic surge in national support. This was matched in Iowa.

And it looked very promising for him. But what happened? The Republican establishment rose up in concerted, presumptuous, and mean-spirited opposition, thus revealing their latent affection for Romney.

(Suppose Rick Santorum comes out on top or in a dead heat with Romney in Iowa less than a week from now. Will this be a significant threat to Romney? I don’t think so. Where does Santorum go next? New Hampshire would be the lock for Romney that everyone is already predicting anyway. And what kind of organizatin does Santorum have in the South? An Iowa victory would be small consolation if it doesn’t ignite national support as the new “anti-Romney” candidate. And I don’t see how it would. Santorum is tenacious, a decent debater, and truly conservative. But this doesn’t keep Obama awake at night worrying that he might have to run against Santorum. Santorum lacks that special panache that will be needed to knock Obama out.)

Let’s get back to Gingrich. Fellow conservatives, let us ask, Why have we neglected him at such a time as this?

I truly hope that if Newt does not win united support among conservatives it will be because of their wisdom in such matters. But there is the very real possibility that it will come down to being manipulated by the power-brokers in Washington and on network and cable TV.

There are two obvious reasons for Newt’s recent dip in the polls. First, he has been savaged by pontificating “conservatives” of the Republican establishment (for example, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and, more local to my area in Southern California, Hugh Hewitt). Second, the other conservative candidates, smelling blood and needing desperately to improve their own standing in the polls, have blasted Newt for being less than truly conservative.

Michelle Bachman, especially, has stooped to disappointing depths in this regard. Her grip on the full breadth of conservative policy has always seemed ham-handed, but her recent and opportunistic attacks on Gingrich have made this obvious. She has decried his claims to be a conservative, and rehearsed contrived allegations without reserve or grace. I suspect has she hoped, by this means, to steal for herself support from a weakened Gingrich. And this recent lifting of the veil to show that even she can be less than candid and fair has made me more sure that she should not be given further encouragement in her bid for the presidency. Frankly, I believe she may have spoiled any chances she had even to be invited to be the vice presidential running mate. (I remember being impressed very early on that Newt Gingrich liked and supported Michelle, and wanted to see her do well. I recall thinking that he might even then have been thinking that she could be good running mate material. Not any more, I’d say now. I invite you to go back and review the early debates.)

By now you’ll know that I give Newt Gingrich the best chances of beating Romney for the nomination and for beating Obama in the general election. Of the true conservatives still in the running, he is the only truly Reaganesque one of the bunch. Conservatives need to remember how much they would like to have Reagan back. That’s not possible. He was one of a kind, and what a kind he was! But he imprinted some few who still carry the DNA. And Newt Gingrich is one of them. Mitt Romney surely is not. And Rick Santorum and Michalle Bachman, for all of their virtues (and they are considerable), just aren’t the Reagan-types of our era.

We need to face another serious obstacle to shoring up support for the single best conservative candidate to ruin Romney’s nomination prospects. Among grassroots conservatives, evangelicals carry considerable electoral weight. And evangelicals, for perfectly intelligible reasons, have gravitated toward candidates who are more overtly in line with their theological convictions. (Many speculate that this, too, is a reason why Romney has not done well among evangelicals. But I think that reasons for conservative evangelical reluctance about a Romney presidency are more complicated than this.) On this score, Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum are the more pleasing candidates for some evangelicals. Both are quite public and transparent about their Christian faith, and Bachman identifies very explicitly with evangelicalism. But it has to be said: This is not a sufficient reason to cast a vote for Santorum or Bachman. In fact, this may even be a reason for evangelicals to withhold support.

Let me explain.

Suppose an evangelical wins the presidency. Would that be cause for rejoicing among evangelicals? Not necessarily. For starters, Jimmy Carter bellowed his evangelical pedigree and got himself supported. Consider how that turned out. He is the most disgraced former president alive today. Other reasons are more to the point, however.

First, evangelicals owe their fellow citizens fair consideration in the effort to work together toward the common good as a pluralistic society. Constituency voting is, on a certain level, shameful. Though we owe our Christian forebears a great debt for bequething to us a legacy of democracy and associated values, this did not make us a “Christian nation” in some theocratic sense.

Second, evangelicals, of all people, should be able to distinguish between society’s spiritual and religious problems and society’s political problems. And they should know better than to think that the very real religious and spiritual problems of our society would be healed by concentrating political power in the hands of evangelicals. (I have lived and work among fellow evangelicals my entire life, and I shudder to think what kind of society ours would be if power was to be consolidated in their hands.)

This brings me to a third consideration. If the Christian church seeks to impose its will on the American public by electing political leaders on the grounds that they are the true saints of the world, then the Church will one day (and once again) be embarrassed by the inevitable failures and spotty track records of those presumed saints. Better to elect a good and decent person, with a stout sense of America’s special standing in the world and her Constitutional groundedness, than to insist on someone with more limited political skills whose decency we associate with our own religious convictions.

I have often thought—indeed, I trembled at the thought even during the last election cycle—that an Obama victory based on constituent support might prove an embarrassment to the constituents who supported him, without regard for his political expertise or sensibilities as a human being. I trust that some who voted for Obama for no better reason than this do now regret doing so and will be more circumspect on this next go around.

It’s very possible that we who are evangelicals have been the slowest to wake up to current political realities, and that we stand in the way of a successful campaign against Obama. Let us be rid of any vain hope that a political fix for all of America’s problems depends on electing one like ourselves in every respect possible. That is a foolish ambition. It is one of which we should repent, before God himself.

Let us, instead, use the wisdom we have been given by God—feeble though we are to steward this wisdom faithfully—to cast our political support for the one we truly believe, all things considered, can bring the change many of us believe is desirable and possible.

I suggest that this calculation must take into consideration the need for a broad conservative movement in this country to consolidate around a single worthy candidate, who will no doubt be flawed like the rest of us, and to reawaken to the peculiar privilege it is for serious Christians to live in a democratic Republic.

Evangelical Support for Newt Gingrich/Early December 2011

Suggested Reading:

“Newt Gingrich strong with Iowa evangelicals, Tea Partiers” (December 6, 2011)

Updates:

• Wintery Knight has started an interesting Facebook thread discussing this post. Click here.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

8 Responses to Why Newt Gingrich Probably Still Is the Candidate with the Most to Offer Conservatives

  1. Pingback: Why Newt? (Part 2 of 2) | A View from the Right

  2. PT Austin says:

    I’ve been trying to find somewhere to post this warning about Mitt Romney, and i have been frustrated, so I am just going to post my comment here, and beg your pardon if you think it is inappropriate. However, I think my warning warrants it, and hope you won’t mind.

    I have lived in Utah amongst Mormons (Latter-Day Saints) for most of my life, which means for more than half a century. During my school years, particularly in junior high school, I was required to study various religions, including Mormonism. Moreover, as a Utah resident, I was so completely immersed in the Mormon culture, it was impossible to escape its influence. I lived in a state that was and is not only saturated by Mormonism and its theology, but is so heavily subjected to Mormon precepts, ideology, theology, and tenets, that every sector, aspect, and element of life in this state is, at the very least, significantly impacted, colored, and shaped by, if not out and out dictated by it, in detail. Mormonism is pervasive in Mormon and non-Mormon lives. Social, political, business, and personal life shaped and even controlled by the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS), its leaders, and its mandates. Long-time Non-Mormon residents are well-aware of the fact that, in Utah, their votes in national elections are, essentially, meaningless, because the Mormon Church basically controls their outcome. Most of our legislators are LDS, most of our social and political leaders are LDS, most of our law enforcement officers are LDS, most of our Judges and attorneys are LDS. Most of any group who wields any measurable power or influence are LDS. And, therefore, our lives are shaped and controlled by the LDS Church and its leaders. Mormons are taught to obey and not challenge, not investigate or ask probing questions about their religion and its precepts. “Do as you are told, believe as you are told, or you will never be able to enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” Correspondingly, one of the primary dictates of all good Mormons is to proselytize. I do not mean evangelize, as do other religions. No, Mormons have an obligation, a mandate to PROSLETIZE and convert all Gentiles to Mormonism.(non-Mormons are referred to as “Gentiles” by Mormons – basically, non-Mormons are considered, at best,misguided heathens). Moreover, they are mandated to impose their beliefs upon all non-Mormons and ensure that they comply with the dictates for behavior as outlined by their “theology.” They believe they are obliged to “save” all non-believers, and ensure that all mankind become members of their church, which they believe is the one and only true church, despite what Jesus said about his church standing preserved against all attempts to defile or destroy it “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”. They even have a practice of going through obituaries to identify non-Mormons and have them baptized, by proxy, into the Mormon Church. They have baptized, in absentia, all Catholic Saints, even those dead for millennia. All the apostles who were the “Fathers” and “doctors” of the Catholic Church have been baptized by proxy into the LDS Church. Every single non-Mormon is not immune from this practice. They have a group of people who take turns getting baptized over and over again for the dead non-Mormons, They do this on a regular schedule at the Mormon Temple. Year in and year out, scores of the dead are baptized into Mormonism against their wills, because the Mormons believe they are “saving” misguided souls.

    And, despite the fact that Mormons believe they are Christians, they do NOT believe in the same Jesus that all the rest of Christianity believes in. Their Jesus came to the Americas. Yes, they use the same name, but the Aramaic Jesus is not the same as the American Jesus. Similar yes, the same, no. The God of most mainstream Christianity is a Triune God, one God, three persons, with Jesus Christ the only son, Divine from the beginning, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and manifest as a man by the Word of the Father. In Mormon theology, God was just a good man who became our God, had sex with his wives in heaven, and made spirit babies who populate the world. And, moreover, any GOOD Mormon man who remains faithful to its teachings, will become a god he after he dies and goes to heaven, and will create his own worlds which he will populate with babies bred by him with his wives in heaven — Never mind that this breaks the First Commandment. This is not a bit of their theology that they make widely known; but if you ask people who have lived in Utah long enough, they will confirm this tenet of Mormonism. Consequently, my warning is this, that, if a Mormon becomes president, he is OBLIGED and MANDATED to spread the word of the Mormon Jesus and their LDS beliefs, impose those beliefs on others, and do his best to turn the US into a Mormon country, which means that he will be obliged to make sure Americans observe LDS practices, no alcohol, no smoking, no caffeine, well, except Coca Cola, which was previously banned, until the LDS Church bought into the Coke Company, and, more importantly, no thinking for yourself, only obedience to the 12 apostles of the LDS Church. You are supposed to believe what you are TOLD to believe. There a lot of other bizarre beliefs that they ascribe to, but keep quiet, lest people, potential converts be put off by the strange and even blasphemous tenets of their faith — such as being able to become gods, and if you are a person of color, you can’t enter into the top heaven; no non-Mormons allowed, even the pope or the Orthodox patriarchs can’t get in — they believe in three separate heavens, and only white, Anglo Saxon Mormons in good standing can get there. And, if I recall correctly, they use to teach that one had to be a member of their priesthood to get into that heaven, which meant you had to be a White, Anglo Saxon MALE Mormon. Also, prior to their then leading apostle eventually having a revelation that allowed people of color to enter only after they die and turn white, so they could get into the top heaven, Blacks, or people of African descent, could NEVER enter into their top heaven — note this revelation allowing Blacks into their priesthood occurred only after they were sued. This is a reason I cannot understand anyone of color becoming a Mormon. Fifty years ago, in Utah, this was common knowledge. There are a lot of other beliefs that mainstream Christians would find flabbergasting and offensive. So, you decide if you want a Mormon president. And, if he becomes president, remember you were warned.

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  3. J.S. Morales says:

    I must respectfully disagree Dr. Geivett. While Newt is a great debater, he would be savaged by Obama and the Dems due to his many character flaws and his off-the-wall-crazy statements (right-wing social engineering anyone?). The man has a lot of good ideas but I can’t see how he is leadership material. He would be much better as a behind-the-scenes ideas guy.

    Santorum’s biggest problem is organization, which I am more optimistic he can build up in time. I also think concerns about his electability are a little overrated as the man won several elections in a purple state (yes, I know he badly lost the last one, but we won several prior to that). I also fail to see the logic of your last points about evangelicals not voting for someone who agrees with us. I mean, I do my best to see who would be the best candidate and consider all the factors. However, if we really believe that our ideas are the best for the gov’t, then we should vote for people who share them. No evangelical is proclaiming setting up some kind of theocracy, but what we do want is a gov’t that supports marriage, lowers taxes, is smaller, etc etc etc. I mean, who on earth should I vote for if not the most electable candidate that most closely (not perfectly) reflects my views?? Quite frankly, all of the candidates have weaknesses they will be attacked on, but Romney and Santorum definitely seem the two best candidates to take the fight to Obama. I would gladly vote for either of them as President.

    I would also imagine that you should be aware that many of society’s political problems stem from our spiritual and/or cultural problems. You disintegrate the culture of marriage and gov’t has to step in to fill the void, to name just one example. I guess I’m not fully seeing your points there. Obviously, we should do more than just reflexively vote for whoever says they’re a Christian, however, it also seems crass to vote for someone whom we disagree with simply based on political calculations. It is that kind of compromise that has gotten us where we are now and that is why the Tea Party rose up, to shift the party rightward. To throw away our convictions would only bring us back to where we started.

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  4. arufree says:

    I agree 100% with your analysis! I can’t believe people are standing in judgment of Gingrich’s character as a hang-up! Then David Knight took a step further to point out his lack of humility! I am amazed that people dare to venture into the sanctuary of man’s soul to public declare they know what only God knows. I suppose it must take great humility to pen those thoughts.

    Newt Gingrich is the most seasoned of the bunch. He’s the one I see everyone following his lead during the debate. I also see him moderating and framing the issues during the debate. His experience, skills, and penchant for dialogue is obvious.

    Have we forgotten that Newt’s lack of humility and virtuous living is to be measured against Obama’s what…finesse for character, courage, and statesmanship.

    It’s time for Conservatives to gird or loins and “not have itchy ears” for the lamestream media’s distortions and mind-games.

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  5. Doug Geivett says:

    Marty, thanks for chiming in. We agree: it is not anachronistic to appeal to the Reagan ideals today.

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  6. Marty George's says:

    Doug,
    I must admit, I am warming to Gingrich. I too am concerned about his character issues. The Republican establishment claims that he’s too conservative to win the general election don’t carry force with me. In fact, I’m reminded of the warnings we heard back in 1979-80 that Reagan was too extreme for the country and didn’t stand a chance to beat Jimmy Carter.

    Concerning comments above asserting that Reagan’s generation has passed, I think that there are plenty of us still around—in our 40s and 50s—who remember how bad the Carter years were; and were inspired by Reagan’s leadership, vision, values, and principles. We have passed that legacy on to our children—who vote.

    I’d like to see a general election pitting the sharp, contrasting ideologies of Obama and the Left vs. a conservative like Gingrich—-and flush out Obama’s true beliefs.

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  7. David Knight says:

    I absolutely agree with your analysis 99.00%. The only thing that I would disagree with you on, is when you make the following remark with regard to Newt Gingrich: “Of the true conservatives still in the running, he is the only truly Reaganesque one of the bunch.” The reasons that I disagree with you on this point are as follows:

    1. While I agree that for the most part Gingrich is a Conservative, he has huge character issues which ensure that he’ll not be “a great president.” I’m not talking about his divorces. I am referring first and formost to his total lack of humility.

    Gingrich’s arrogance is second to none, and I think this is why the people who know him best, like him the least. Arrogance drives a man to make stupid and foolish mistakes. It makes him say things that he later regrets, and it causes those around him to sometimes pay a huge price. We have already seen some huge mistakes made by him during this campaign, and they can be directly linked to his lack of humility.

    2. Conservatives have to quit looking to the past when choosing a president. Ronald Reagan is dead, and most nearly all who belong to his generation are gone as well. Ronald Reagan was a great president because he was raised by a generation who held and cherished values and morals that haven’t been cherished or valued in a very long time. Reagan too cherished and honored the values taught him by his parents, and his values served him well throughout his life. They made him the man that he was. It made most of the people of his generation very good people.

    Americans see the values of Reagan’s generation as old fashion and silly. Today, we prefer instead to embrace values that are relativistic, pragmatic, and/or Utilitarian in nature. “What is a lie to some, may not be a lie to others.” “Live and let live.” “You live by your standards and let me live by mine.” “I’ll do what ever I want, and as long as I’m not bothering you, it’s none of your business.” “The ends justify the means.” These are the values that we embrace. These are the values that have echoed through America’s universities, and in the halls of government and justice for several decades now. The result of our shift in cherished values is exactly what we’ve seen on recent presidential debate stages.

    The men who are running for the highest office in the land are no Ronald Reagan! They don’t even know how to be a Ronald Reagan. I listen to them and say to myself, if this is the best that America has to offer it’s people, we’re doomed for the scrap heep of history. So, while I think that Newt Gingrich can win this contest, and even become president, I don’t think he’ll be a great president, or maybe even a good one.

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  8. Tom Wanchick says:

    Great post here, Dr. Geivett. I don’t strongly disagree with any of this analysis, though I think Perry is a stronger candidate than you seem to believe. He is stronger (or at least more vocal) on sanctity of life issues than Newt, I believe, and Gingrich seems more prone to big government ideals in some ways (e.g., his taste for governmental-private sector hybrid entities that he mentioned last debate).

    That being said, I do think Gingrich has the best chance at defeating Obama among the current candidates. I’m glad I read your post, as it affirms me in that opinion. Thank you for sharing it.

    –Tom Wanchick

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