Two decades ago, Newt Gingrich would be unelectable. He has already been involved in scandals while in Washington and he’s demonstrated multiple challenges with his personal life that would have precluded him from being a viable candidate, let alone someone who is well-positioned to be the Republican nominee for President in 2012.
His ability to run, to stay at the top and to be considered the best hope against Obama in November is a direct result of one man: Bill Clinton.
Leadership vs Morals
President Clinton is arguably the only man since Ronald Reagan to have a successful time in the oval office. Republicans would argue that Bush was successful while Democrats would point to his many flaws. Democrats would argue that Obama has been successful while Republicans would say, “look around.”
Few on either side would say that Clinton’s presidency was a failure. The country prospered under his watch. Many of his actions are still being felt today, and while Republicans might point to major differences in policy choices, they have to acknowledge that he did many good things for the country.
Few on either side would say that Clinton was a moral beacon. He was caught cheating on his wife while in the White House and he was caught lying about it while staring directly into the eyes of a watching nation. The words “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” will follow him throughout the history books for all time, followed very closely by the quote, “I didn’t inhale.”
High morals? No. Strong leadership? Absolutely.
Bill Clinton’s record indirectly helps Newt Gingrich. For a President to be effective while not being a pillar of morality is the best hope for Republicans. Lust is a powerful thing and in today’s world it’s can be forgiven more easily than shady dealings surrounding greed. While Mitt Romney may be able to take the moral high-road regarding his marriage, the questions surrounding his activities with Bain, his alleged use of the Cayman Islands as a tax haven, and his unwillingness to release his tax returns before being selected as the GOP nominee are more damaging.
We know Gingrich is a cheater, but it’s better than being a Plutocrat in the eyes of American voters, particularly in today’s economic atmosphere.
Gingrich’s first surge prior to Iowa came at the worst possible time. He became a target too early and Santorum was able to capitalize. South Carolina is a different story. Following two strong performances during the two debates that preceded the SC primary, Gingrich is positioned to win a race that was completely owned by Romney a week ago.
Republicans might be starting to see Gingrich as their best hope against Obama, but Democrats are seeing Gingrich as an easier foe than Romney.
The prospects of putting Obama and his record over the last 4 years up against Gingrich’s “wild card” mentality has them salivating. It’s Bob Dole all over again in their eyes. Bill Clinton was extremely well-liked by the people as a person while Dole was perceived negatively. Dole’s political record was strong. His personality was not.
It’s a little different in an Obama/Gingrich race. Obama exudes much of the same charisma and likability that Clinton had, but Gingrich is disliked for different reasons than Dole.
Romney has strong head-to-head numbers against Obama, but his baggage will be attacked and he has shown that he cannot handle it very well. Gingrich has demonstrated the ability to turn negatives into positives. It doesn’t matter. Democrats would still rather face him than Romney.
If that wish is granted, it could prove to be a mistake.
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Sal brings a moderate voice to Conservative Haven. He is a tech blogger in the heart of Silicon Valley but doesn’t get to go to too many parties anymore.