Kevin Drum brings up something I think is missing from the post-Iowa caucus aftermath. Namely, is the GOP’s worst nightmare – Newt Gingrich (besides winning the nomination) going nuclear on his own party – about to come true? Drum thinks so:
But Newt Gingrich is famous for his willingness to toss all the usual rules overboard and light the world on fire if that’s what he thinks it takes for him to win, and now he looks set to do it again:
With the benefit of a $5 million infusion from right-wing casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich is planning an assault in South Carolina that centers on Romney’s career at Bain Capital….The political effect of these ads is to turn Romney’s chief selling point into a liability – his private-sector experience becomes an indicator not that he will fix the economy but that he will help the already-rich. It’s a smash-you-over-the-head blunt message, with ominous music and storybook dialogue.
[…] In other words, Newt Gingrich is now doing exactly what everyone in the Republican Party was afraid he was going to do: destroy them utterly if they decline to nominate him. It’s no surprise really, since this has been Newt’s MO for decades, but it sure is a helluva spectacle.
Which is a message echoed by Jonathan Chait:
There is an informal set of rules governing attacks in the presidential primary campaigns, so as to keep things within the healthy, winnowing spirit of Darwinian competition, and away from dangerous subversion of the eventual nominee. One guideline is that attacks from the flanks are more allowable than attacks from the center. (“Mitt Romney is not a true conservative” is fine, because it won’t be the Democrats’ theme this fall; “Mitt Romney will cut Medicare” is another story.) Another, more informal criterion is that the closer a candidate gets to wrapping up the nomination, the more gentle his opponents must be in assailing him.
By these standards, Newt Gingrich’s new message assailing Mitt Romney is a remarkable breach of protocol.
This was a message I heard in the Democratic primary surrounding the sometimes-vitriolic back and forth between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. There was a concern then that much of the oppo-research being done on Obama via Clinton surrogates would essentially be handing ammo to the Republicans in a the general election, and in some ways that’s exactly what happened.
Today is the New Hampshire primary, of course, and Nate Silver’s latest projections show Newt capturing 11.5% – essentially 5th out of 6th place. Right now he is polling much better in South Carolina and Florida, but the question then becomes how much damage can an angry Newt Gingrich inflict before we see February? In this respect I would completely understand the upper-Republican echelons wringing their hands. Especially when it’s a Newt Gingrich gleefully emptying his magazine of left-leaning populist bullets into a nominee that few in the party are passionate towards.