As Newt Gingrich's surge to the top of the GOP presidential polls continues, Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic marvels at new Gallup data that shows 82 percent of Tea Party-affiliated Republicans deem Gingrich an "acceptable presidential nominee," compared to only 58 percent for Romney. Tea Partiers "don't seem to realize that if he wins the nod their movement is doomed," Friedersdorf says. After all, the former House speaker supported many of the Bush-era big government programs that the Tea Party hates, including TARP, No Child Left Behind, and the "budget-busting" drug entitlement program Medicare Part D. But if Gingrich wins the nomination, it seems likely that Tea Party members would support him. That would do irreparable damage to the movement, says Friedersdorf, "as it would be the ultimate act of sacrificing principle and ideological purity for the sake of beating Democrats." Here's why:
President Gingrich would take office, and proceed to behave like... well, a decades-long Washington insider who supported No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, the attempt at a guest worker program, TARP, and the Harriet Miers nomination. Every conservative betrayal would be a reminder that the Tea Party helped elect just the sort of man they'd so righteously vowed to eschew.
The label wouldn't stand for anything anymore.
And a Gingrich loss to Obama? In a world where the Tea Party was seen as responsible for his rise, it would be discrediting, as losses always are for the faction that urges a divisive candidate. Along with the blame game, there'd be four more years of Obama, which Tea Partiers regard as the ultimate failure.