How do the words President Newt Gingrich sound to you?
To the House Republicans who dumped him as speaker, they sound appalling. To the political pundits who have written him off as politically comatose at several junctures during the last year, they still sound unlikely. To anyone who looks at the heavy political baggage Gingrich carries around – his ethical lapses, his marital infidelities, his hypocrisies, his grandiosity, his many contradictions – the idea Gingrich could ever win the nomination, let alone the general election, is ridiculous.
And yet, what are the options?
No matter how much money Mitt Romney spends, money can’t buy him the love of conservatives. His awkward and often tone-deaf performance on the campaign trail has brought him close to becoming an object of ridicule – the kiss of death for any politician.
Rick Santorum’s claim to the hearts and minds of those same conservatives was rejected in South Carolina. And, Monday night during the debate in Florida, his glee at the prospect of war with Iran did not come across as tough, it came across as scary.
And Ron Paul? Well, he performs a great service by injecting an occasional reality check into the debates – as he did on Monday night by knocking down Gingrich’s claim to have willingly and nobly resigned from the speaker’s job in the wake of GOP losses in the 1998 election. But Paul’s anti-war libertarianism will never prevail in the party most enamored of the military industrial complex.
And so there is Gingrich. He has become a contender because he is unusually articulate, spouts lots of intelligent-sounding big ideas and channels the anger of the core Republican electorate. For now, they are overlooking or forgiving his many personal flaws.
If Gingrich doesn’t self-destruct, he will have a real shot at the nomination. Oh, yes, the Democrats would have an arsenal assembled from all the controversial things Gingrich has done as a creature of Washington for three decades and they would throw everything at him. But if the economy continues to lag with no hope in sight, Barack Obama could be doomed, no matter how imperfect his opponent might be.
There is a plausible path to a Gingrich presidency. How do the words President Gingrich sound to you?
Stephen Colbert runs a campaign clinic