Coming off a huge win in the South Carolina, Newt Gingrich is riding high in the polls, drawing massive crowds in Florida, and could very well deliver a fatal blow to Mitt Romney’s candidacy should he win the Florida primary next Tuesday.
Despite all of his momentum, a Gingrich win in Florida is not certain. Even before the conclusion of the South Carolina contest, Romney had spent millions of dollars in Florida working an early voter program and running television ads all across the state.
With the massive amount of momentum he has coming in to Florida, Gingrich is once again being viewed as a huge threat to win the Republican nomination instead of Romney, the candidate who most insiders would have bet everything they owned on winning the nomination as recently as ten days ago.
Just like we experienced in Iowa when Gingrich surged in late November, the common criticism by his critics is that he’s an erratic leader who lacks focus. In one of last week’s debates, Rick Santorum blasted Gingrich for having “ten ideas a minute,” while being the Speaker of the House. Santorum made the argument that Gingrich’s constant flow of ideas made it difficult to accomplish anything since the mission was ever-changing.
Romney has used a whole host of surrogates to attack Gingrich in a similar way. Two different television ads in South Carolina featured former Missouri Senator Jim Talent, who also served under Gingrich in the House, and former New York Congresswoman Susan Molinari. The ad, titled “Undisciplined” featured Senator Talent saying, “He would make outrageous comments that would blindside us and undermine our conservative agenda. Chaotic decisions, erratic behavior, it’s a problem when your own leader is the biggest political problem that you’re dealing with, which is why we removed him as the Speaker.”
Even though the charge didn’t help Romney in South Carolina, it is becoming clear that painting Gingrich as an erratic figure is going to be one of the chief lines of attack for the remainder of the primary campaign and the general election should he win the nomination. The comments made by Talent and others cut right to the bone. Regardless of what you think about the ads and the message they convey, they are a full-frontal personal attack on Gingrich. What voters must decide is whether it really matters.
Before we delve too deep into this subject, the idea that Gingrich lacks focus is not entirely true. He helped lead the Republican revolution of 1994, which was no small feat considering that Republicans had not controlled the chamber in forty years. The game plan was clearly mapped out in the Contract With America, and the Gingrich-led House voted on each segment of the Contract in the first 100 days that they were in power. The Contract had created a clear mandate, and the Republican controlled House swiftly followed through with its promises.
The “undisciplined” or unfocused Gingrich that the Romney campaign is attacking or that Santorum has talked about involves the post-Contract with America Newt Gingrich. It’s a fair criticism if Gingrich were attempting to win his old job back, but he’s not. He’s running for President, and the job requirements there couldn’t be more different.
As the leader of the majority party in U.S. House, Gingrich needed to build a consensus with his Republican colleagues. Wanting to promote new ideas everyday would make finding a consensus impossible. The President has to cast a vision, lead an administration, and work with Congress to get it implemented. The difference is that the president’s job is rallying the American people around his agenda, not necessarily lining up the votes in Congress.
It’s likely that Newt Gingrich would be a far better President of the United States than he was a Speaker of the House as he is more of a visionary than an organizer. Sure Gingrich is still going to have all sorts of ideas, but he will need Congressional approval if any of these ideas were ever to materialize. What I’m saying is that Congress will be able to sort out the good ideas from the bad, thus providing a much needed check and balance on the ever-thinking Gingrich.
If Republicans maintain control of the House and take control of the Senate, there is no doubt that they would be able to advance a conservative agenda in a Gingrich administration. Where there is cause for concern it’s how a President Gingrich would deal with a Democratically controlled Congress. History provides conservatives ample reasons to be concerned under that situation. One only needs to watch the global warming ad Gingrich shot with Nancy Pelosi or his willingness to join forces with Hillary Clinton to advance to the discussion on reforming healthcare in America to see the potential problems.
If elected, it’s safe to say that a Gingrich presidency would be either boom or bust. As long as one branch on Congress is under Republican control, there would be little to worry about. If a President Gingrich woke up and said that he wanted to colonize the moon, which Gingrich said yesterday on the campaign trail in Florida, I trust that Congress would put the breaks on the proposal.
Despite all of Gingrich’s flaws, he has displayed an ability throughout the campaign to rally people around his vision for America. The American people want a President with an idea of where he wants to take the county. The American people are not afraid of the candidate who thinks big because that is what this country is all about. Sure, Gingrich has been undisciplined at times, but so to have many of our greatest leaders.
Romney attacks Gingrich for being undisciplined, but that’s what the Republican establishment also thought of Theodore Roosevelt when he was Governor of New York and then Vice President. President Eisenhower thought that General George Patton was undisciplined. Even Ronald Reagan was known for being undisciplined at times. Had it not been for his willingness to trump the advice of his advisors, he would have never demanded that Mikhail Gorbachev, “Tear down this wall,” when standing before the Brandenburg Gate.
The history books are littered with examples of undisciplined people being extraordinary leaders. Only time will tell if Gingrich wins the nomination, let alone is elected President. The make up of Congress after the next election is probably the most important factor in whether or not Gingrich would be the conservative leader that people are looking for. All the candidates have faults, and Newt may have a long list of them, but his big ideas and larger than life persona are not on that list.
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com