Gingrich has nothing whatsoever to lose and owes little to the Republican establishment except tangible ill-will and a thorough lesson in the perils of underestimating his brilliance. He has conjured a campaign lacking coherent policy or resources but with apparently impeccable timing, probably more by accident than design, and a finely tuned sense of when to go for the jugular. One could be forgiven for assuming he makes up much of his campaign as he goes.
But in the context of the post-Obama GOP he has discerned something that the establishment chose to ignore; the Republican heartland, especially in the South, is thoroughly primed for a modern incarnation of George Wallace, this time from the Right. Gingrich has seized this opportunity; realising that insular paranoia of the "left-wing media," for example, trumps family values in this cycle, and not by just a little. There is a rich store of this kind of prejudice, misinformation and discontent to draw on and Gingrich seems poised to make the most of it; whether it takes him to the nomination or not is another matter. It will vindicate him to his long-standing detractors and for Newt personally that is motivation enough. This will get as ugly as it takes; the marginalised Tea Party conservatives are mad as hell about something and in Newt they have found a willing champion.
South Carolina is a special case, to be sure, but the handwriting is still on the wall:
It was always going to happen this way - Newt was going to go back into his wheelhouse, ripping the media and spouting in the general direction of the White House whatever pile of pejorative adjectives popped into his head at the moment. He tried, lamely, to be a statesman, and the party faithful ignored him. Once he became the vandal he was born to be, the political arsonist among the abandoned tenements of Republican thought, he was bound to take off again. The base doesn't want someone whose ideas on job creation will triumph because they are superior to the president's. They want somebody who can beat him bloody, vicariously, on their behalf, somebody who can "put him in his place." They want someone who will kill the administration just for the sheer fun of watching it die.
Charles P Pierce - In Newt's South Carolina, Blood for Bloodsport's Sake Esquire 21 Jan 12
Just when even Roger Ailes of Fox had concurred that whipping up the disaffection of Nixon's Southern Strategy constituencies had achieved about as much as it could without threatening the corporate allegiances of the party Gingrich enlists this torch and pitchfork cohort in his insurgent march to the White House. Gosh, as Willard might say, who saw that coming? And with the taste of blood in the water earned media will be readily available and the punditry secretly barracking for a real dogfight.
Florida is a rich delegate prize and surprisingly fluid. Gingrich was leading in the polls there not so long ago and Romney's recent performance, not to mention the profound unlikelihood of him credibly going toe-to-toe with Newt, suggests the outcome is impossible to predict. Romney can bomb Gingrich with just about any amount of negative television he likes, as he did in Iowa, but he is burning through resources at an alarming rate and Florida is an expensive market. All someone needs to do is back a Brinks truck up to the office of Gingrich's SuperPAC and it is game on; as already happened to the tune of five million or so in recent weeks.
Considering that Gingrich has a high-voltage, if jury-rigged, campaign well under way while Romney's badly needs a reboot and faces tax returns and two debates in a brief ten days one imagines that prudence and sober strategy might be confounded with panic among Romney's inner circle; noting, for example, the briefly but widely touted Jeb Bush endorsement failed to actually materialise. We'll see. A day is a long time in politics but you can almost smell the fear.
The Republicans are split; over at Red State it is engaging to see the arguments pro and con for the, now, two leading candidates. Romney inspires no loyalty; it is just a matter of whether Gingrich will utterly destroy the party or not if nominated. Frankly, and in sympathy with our fellow bloggers there, it is a tough call. With Newt anything is possible.
But there's one tactic we have seen a sign of already which may transform, and potentially weaponise, Newt's candidacy; he is squaring off against the Washington "elites" and if that means he has to come at Romney, or Wall Street, with the populist, working-class sozialismus of the trucknutzlumpen, in the style of Wallace, William Jennings Bryan or Huey Long, one suspects he won't hesitate or apologise if it suits his purpose; he aptly referred to Ryan's Medicare plan as "Right-wing social engineering" before his campaign ever fairly started.
One notes that his attacks on Bain Capital and "vulture capitalism" haven't seemed to have done him any harm so far among the constituency he has appropriated. If the strategy Romney has decided to use to fend off such attacks from Gingrich, and it seemed the major thrust of his concession speech, is suggesting "his opponent was joining in a frontal assault on free enterprise" he, and his somewhat desperate staff, may be more out of touch with the electorate than we had already assumed.