Political Animal


January 27, 2012 8:00 AM Newt Loses It

By Ed Kilgore

Last night’s presidential candidate debate in Jacksonville, cosponsored by CNN and the Hispanic Leadership Network, was Newt Gingrich’s best and perhaps last chance to get his mojo back against a confluence of negative pressures—from sustained attacks to his left and right by GOP opinion-leaders to a cascade of Romney-sponsored attack ads—that were undermining his support in Florida.

By virtually everyone’s account, he just plain blew it.

Earlier in the day, shortly after his old rival Bob Dole went completely medieval on him, Gingrich had delivered a podium-pounding speech in Florida that accused Romney of conspiring with Establishment figures to take him out as a threat to their power. He must have burned himself out, because that fiery Newt Gingrich was not apparent during the debate. He sounded bad, he looked bad, and generally came across like a weasel who had finally been cornered by Animal Control.

For very, very long minutes, Romney beat him up on the immigration issue, managing simultaenously to appeal to nativists and to suck up to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who had already done him the enormous favor of criticizing Gingrich’s ads accusing Mitt of being “anti-immigrant.”

Here’s how Ron Brownstein put it:

By luck of the draw, the debate’s first two questions allowed Romney to conspicuously position himself to Gingrich’s right-and in so doing may have sealed Romney’s advantage in the state. Gingrich’s resurgence in South Carolina was fueled by the Republican coalition’s most populist and conservative elements. But in the debate’s first half-hour, it was Romney who identified both with conservative and populist causes through an extended discussion about illegal immigration and then housing (which again allowed him to criticize Gingrich for his work for Freddie Mac). That placed Romney on a high ground from which Gingrich never dislodged him; in fact, Gingrich seemed to lose heart for the fight as the evening progressed, leaving Santorum to deliver the most effective conservative case against Romney.

If losing virtually every direct exchange with Romney was the bad news for Newt, the worse news is that the debate may have added a few points, and some hope, to Rick Santorum’s campaign. At this point, nearly every vote Santorum wins in Florida diminishes Gingrich’s chances. And those chances were already beginning to fade, as all of the most recent Florida polls have shown Romney retaking the lead.

At this point, Gingrich needs to work some magic with the $6 million Florida ad campaign the Adelson family bought for him, and hope for big errors by Romney. The road gets a lot easier for Mitt, and harder for Newt, after Tuesday. Not for the first time in his long, strange career, Gingrich was at his worst when he looked to have done his best. A third resurrection of his campaign in this cycle is not impossible, but if it happens yet again, I’d recommend we all start looking for signs of the End Times.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • DAY on January 27, 2012 8:12 AM:

    After every debate the pundits focus on the arcane moments- counting tree rings, instead of examining the forest.

    The fact is, Newt is not running for president. What started as a book tour- with a vacation time out in Greece- has become a self promotion marathon, designed not for the Oval Office, but as a second life as an author and a speaker. With a seven figure income.
    When he starts spending his own money, then maybe I will believe he is serious.

  • berttheclock on January 27, 2012 8:14 AM:

    I believe the TKO was called when Mitt turned to Newt and asked him if he had checked his own investments.

  • berttheclock on January 27, 2012 8:17 AM:

    Sadly, Rick S appears to grow stronger with each debate. Running Mate time?

  • Brenna on January 27, 2012 8:23 AM:

    Newt is toast. Nation building on the moon, what's next?

    This race should be between Santorium and Mitt. But I guess Ricky has a googling problem. He was the true conservative up there and is pretty strong at articulating his positions, while pummeling his opponents.

  • SadOldVet on January 27, 2012 8:24 AM:

    I am appreciating the wit that Ed Kilgore puts into his blogs. After a great first day, this is a great start to a second day.

    Ed's blogging here in December and yesterday has convinced me to continue following The Political Animal. I hope that in the long run, Ed Left Coaster Kilgore does not burn out from the early, early, early morning hours needed to start blogging at 8 AM eastern time!

    As a long time reader of Steve Benen, I started reading Political Animal when Steve moved his blog here. I will follow Steve to The Maddow Blog and hope that he has ample opportunities to provide some fraction of the quantity he provided here. We know that the quality will continue.

    I am in the Eastern Time Zone; I wake up between 3 & 4 AM most every morning; and for a long time I have a sizeable wait each morning for Steve's first posting of the day. However, if it would aid in Ed's ability to continue long term, I would semi-patiently wait if Ed's first posting was at 9 or 9:30 or 10 AM eastern time.

    Regarding this blog...

    It has been inevitable that Mittens is going to get the nomination. Big, big money is behind Mitt and he has always had the resources to smother his competition over time. It was also inevitable that Newt will self-destruct. It is now appearing that Newt has been provided the opportunity to self-destruct multiple times during this campaign.

    I also question whether Newt until maybe recently ever seriously believed he could be nominated or if it was really just another of his money making schemes.

  • martin on January 27, 2012 8:24 AM:

    He sounded bad, he looked bad, and generally came across like a weasel who had finally been cornered by Animal Control.

    Yet, strangely enough for those of us who didn't watch, NPR's reporting on it this morning made it sound like a bland he said/he said with little Ricky telling mommy and daddy to quit fighting and Ron Paul laughing on the sidelines.

  • stevio on January 27, 2012 8:25 AM:

    "He sounded bad, he looked bad, and generally came across like a weasel who had finally been cornered by Animal Control."

    Oh you mean as he always does?

    If there is someone more nauseating to look at or listen to than Newt GingGrinch (perhaps Turd Blossom) I can't image that person...

  • James M on January 27, 2012 8:27 AM:

    It is amazing how much the GOP establishment seems to really hates Newt. I had hoped for him to drag out the nomination process to weaken Romney, but Florida looks likes Newt's last stand.

    However, I think the main theme of this year will be OWS. From the standpoint of shifting the terms of the political debate, OWS has to rank as one of the most successful protests campaigns in history.

  • J on January 27, 2012 8:34 AM:

    I did not watch the debate (they are too painful) but I seem to remember Perry got wiped out by a few kind words for immigrants, from what I have now heard is that they are falling over themselves to say who loves immigrants the most.

  • berttheclock on January 27, 2012 8:35 AM:

    I applaud the skill and wit of Mr Kilgore. However, as I live in Portland, OR and, also, awaken or am awakened by our cats between 3 and 4 AM PST, I love the first posting at 5AM PST.

  • massappeal on January 27, 2012 8:37 AM:

    "A third resurrection of his campaign in this cycle is not impossible, but if it happens yet again, Id recommend we all start looking for signs of the End Times. "

    Wait. Newt's candidacy isn't *already* a sign of the End Times?

    Thanks for clearing that up. I feel much better now.

  • lou on January 27, 2012 8:53 AM:

    This entire GOP campaign has not only been a sign of the end times but is adding to the synergistic cascade of events leading toward such a self reinforcing and self perpetuating end. From the bottom there is no light. Unless you are a Romney and can look forward to commanding your own planet some day after you take the controls of this one.

  • Alrighty Then on January 27, 2012 9:06 AM:

    Unless you are a Romney and can look forward to commanding your own planet some day after you take the controls of this one.

    Would that make said person a Romnulan?

  • Terry on January 27, 2012 9:11 AM:

    Not to give Romney any ideas, but on the issue of Freddie Mac, he should say, "My blind trust may have invested in Freddie Mac, but you worked for Freddie Mac even as that housing bubble was about to burst."

  • SKM on January 27, 2012 9:17 AM:

    Newt Gingrich could have derailed Willard's campaign long ago. However, they are both members of CFR (council on foreign relations).

    All Newt had to do, as he noted in one of his campaign stumps yesterday, about 'youtube,' was show the videos of Willard at the Bush 1 and 2 libraries, giving speeches and donating $100,000...basically tying Willard to Bush.

    Also, Newt could have tied Willard to the financial industry - again, tying Bush into this by saying that the financial industry had hired the "Smartest Guys" to bring all of us MBS (Mortgage Backed Securities) CDS (Credit Derivative Swaps)...and the big bonuses to Wall Street Executives/Bankers and then ask the crowd what they know about 'Blind Trusts...' followed by asking the crowd if they think it's fair that they have to sign away the forms when opening checking/savings accounts that they will not wire a certain amount of money to certain countries...so, if they can't have the freedom to bank in other countries, wire money to certain countries then how does a candidate have so much secrecy in offshore accounts.

    Oh, and BTW, I am wondering if Willard included on his disclosures/taxes the gifts from the Olympics 2010 Canada where he was a guest (gifts of certain amounts have to be declared) this is where he got into a media story of a physical assault/confrontation with rapper/band member of LMFAO on an AirCanada - the guy says that the blame was put on him - interesting how rich people, famous people can get away with almost anything. I believe the guy, since Willard always appear to verbally attack the young men at his campaign speeches.

  • Anonymous on January 27, 2012 9:17 AM:

    AT: "Would that make said person a Romnulan?"

    No, just a male Mormon with presidential ambition, a ton of money, and lots of friends and a couple of gods in high places.

  • c u n d gulag on January 27, 2012 9:20 AM:

    He's a NEWT, not a cat.

    He's used up all of his lives.

    Thank goodness.
    Mitt's bad enough.

  • T2 on January 27, 2012 9:20 AM:

    to me, the End of Newt will be traced back to his insane Colonize the Moon in Eight Years statement. Not only was it blatant pandering to the Florida spaceflight voters, it was, simply, an incredibly stupid thing to propose, and each and every Florida spaceflight voter would tell you the same thing.
    So, we see what others have seen. Newt Gingrich is a motor mouth of fanciful ideas. And that's all he is.

  • edo on January 27, 2012 9:24 AM:

    I'm having too much fun watching the 'Little Newtie takes a big dump on uncle Mitt's expensive new carpet' show. I shall miss it dreadfully, kind of like I miss binge drinking (and puking) in high school. No, I'm not kidding. It's added some fun to an otherwise vile and degrading experience, like watching two middle aged women fist fighting in a skid row bar. (The alcoholic analogies a sign of the times? hmmm.... could be.)

    I also will miss Steve, having followed him here from Carpetbagger. I've frittered away many work day hours indulging my lefty propaganda fetish on his excellent work. Oh well, change is a part of life. At least that is what Buddha keeps trying to tell me. Best of luck, Steve. However, I also am enjoying the Ed Kilgore experience, not just because his name is Ed, like me, but mostly because of that. Best of luck, Ed, I'm pulling for you!

  • Kathryn on January 27, 2012 9:27 AM:

    Has any debate questioner ever ask Romney how many jobs he's created since he left the statehouse in Massachusetts, aside from campaign staff? With that low tax rate he should be pumping out the jobs. That is, how many has he personally created, not Bain Capital.

    The tea party majority of the Republican base should have tied their boat to Santorum instead of old Newt based on what the MSNBC pundits said last night. He has the bonus feature of actually believing the crap he spews, he's young, lots of home schooled kids and like most uber religious candidates, lying to advance his cause is no sin apparently. Don't know if the southern base will swoon though for a Pennslyvanian but he really is a perfect religious radical with a blue collar background. Also does the discredited Politfact, a Florida newspaper activity ever fact check the debaters as they do the President or do "facts" not matter in debates as it appears.

    the President or do facts not matter in debates as it appears?

  • Kathryn on January 27, 2012 9:31 AM:

    sorry about last line, operator error. where's gulag, hope his Dad is okay.

  • Marc Montefusco on January 27, 2012 9:46 AM:

    "...came across like a weasel who had finally been cornered by Animal Control."

    As a writer, I envy you this sentence.

  • Josef K on January 27, 2012 9:47 AM:

    Good-bye, Newton. Hello, Santorum-surge.

    And once Santorum's momentary blip of importance fades, we'll be down to just...Paul and Romney. Joy.

  • SKM on January 27, 2012 10:30 AM:

    Another way Newt Gingrich could have landed a blow to Willard, was name all of the other former elected officials that get into lobbying. Followed by saying, "Yes. I lobbyed this and that. But, I had to work for it. You, Willard, on the other hand can sit on your butt and make thousands of dollars a month."

  • MNRD on January 27, 2012 10:30 AM:

    The biggest loser in last night's debate: South Carolina.

  • SKM on January 27, 2012 10:46 AM:

    Sorry, couldn't finish post @10:30 a.m.

    Again, Newt could have mentioned how he has to work for his salary. While Willard collects a monthly check/salary just because.

    Ending with Willard's famous statement of 'being out of touch,' by reminding the public about Willard's speech at Americans for Prosperity that he will 'raise the retirement age, privatize medicare and slash government jobs,' at a Koch Brothers event. This videotaped speech can also be found at http://kochwatch.org

  • boatboy_srq on January 27, 2012 10:56 AM:

    Newt does seem to have an impressive talent for imploding when he's ahead.

    Is it me, or is this election cycle less a series of campaigns by GOP decider-in-chief-wannabes and more the witches' brew from Macbeth? All the ingredients - er, candidates - seem well represented:

    Eye of Newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
    Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
    Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

    Captcha: "Hamburgh wsequr." That's not a dish I want any part of, either.

  • c u n d gulag on January 27, 2012 10:58 AM:

    Thank you so much for your concern. :')

    Dad's got Stage 4 lung and brain cancer, so the outlook's pretty bleak.

    We're scheduling a couple of MRI's and a lung biopsy in the next week. Less in the hope of any treatment, than for the Doctors to make the end of his life as comfortable as possible - not necessarily as long as possible.

    I'll be here when I have some time, since this site and a couple of others are the only thing holding me together.

    And my Mom needs me.
    Unfortunately, I took after my Mom - I'm the weepy family wuss of the two kids they had - my sister's the tougher one.
    Thankfully, she's not too far away.

  • jtxyzzy on January 27, 2012 11:13 AM:

    Newt missed a major blunder by Romney, who told us that we are headed for another housing bubble. Anyone who owns property knows this is - to use another housing term - upside down.

    An administration so blind to the obvious would have backwards, counterproductive policies. But nobody noticed, apparently.

  • 4jkb4ia on January 27, 2012 11:47 AM:

    That's a beautiful post. It was clear from the twitter that Newt had much the worst of it but this was expressed with style.
    (I had a big sink full of pots and no cable.)

  • Elizabeth on January 27, 2012 12:08 PM:

    "He sounded bad, he looked bad, and generally came across like a weasel who had finally been cornered by Animal Control." Thanks, Ed, for the best laugh I have had in a long time. Welcome to my world of blog-reads!

  • stinger on January 27, 2012 1:13 PM:

    @c u n d gulag: So sorry to hear it. Hang in there.

  • c u n d gulag on January 27, 2012 1:40 PM:

    That's all you can do, isn't it? :-)

  • rick on January 27, 2012 5:56 PM:

    Its true, moons do look like their owners.

  • SBcardinal on January 27, 2012 6:27 PM:

    @cundgulag, my dad has lung cancer and I just came from a funeral for a friend's dad, so your news has me blubbering. Hang in there, and know that there are a lot of strangers sending you goodwill.