Feature

Gingrich: The lessons of a failed campaign

Newt Gingrich finally ended his quixotic campaign for the GOP nomination.

Unsuccessful presidential candidates sometimes leave big “political footprints,” said Albert Hunt in Bloomberg.com. Think of Hillary Clinton in 2008 or Ronald Reagan in 1976. But Newt Gingrich, who finally ended his quixotic campaign for the GOP nomination this week, will leave nothing in his wake but sarcastic laughter. When he entered the race last year, the former House speaker portrayed himself as the sole intellectual heavyweight in the field. But his self-styled “big ideas” were “flaky” at best, and “incendiary” at worst. He promised to establish a permanent moon base by the end of his second term, and to send U.S. marshals to arrest liberal judges if they made “radically anti-American” decisions. As president, he vowed, he’d demand that the U.N. extend the right to bear arms “to every person on the planet.” Thrice married, he warned that America was becoming a “secular, atheist” country ruled by “radical Islamists.” Farewell, Newt: You’ll be missed—by the late-night comedians like Jon Stewart and David Letterman. 

There’s nothing funny about the damage Gingrich inflicted on the conservative movement, said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. “An undisciplined megalomaniac,” Gingrich sneered that fellow Republican Paul Ryan’s budget proposal was “right-wing social engineering”—giving Democrats an attack line they’ve used again and again. He stoked the Left’s “class warfare” when he relentlessly savaged Mitt Romney’s career as a venture capitalist. Actually, Romney owes Gingrich a big thank you for those attacks, said Mary Milliken in Reuters.com. “With some stellar debate performances,” Gingrich forced the presumptive Republican nominee to raise his game and work harder to win over a skeptical base. Gingrich’s sniping has left Romney better prepared for President Obama’s impending onslaught. 

Newt did Romney another favor, said Molly Ball in TheAtlantic.com. “By behaving childishly,” and running a “totally amateurish campaign,” he made Mitt look positively presidential. In fact, Gingrich did the whole party a favor, said the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. While pandering for votes, he gave voice to the nuttier ideas on the conservative fringe, exposing them to the disinfecting sunlight of open debate. For example, he accused President Obama of “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior,” and banged the drum for war against Iran—and Cuba, too. In the end, “voters saw through him,” and gave the nomination to the more pragmatic and reasonable candidate. Maybe there’s hope for our republic after all.

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