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May 28, 2011 9:00 AM A ‘genuine grassroots campaign’ without the grassroots

By Steve Benen

Last week, as disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) saw his presidential ambitions imploding, he told the AP there was nothing to be concerned about. His national effort, Gingrich said, is a “genuine grassroots campaign,” the likes of which we only see “once or twice in a century.”

Of course, “genuine grassroots campaigns” tend to enjoy considerable support from, you know, actual people. Gingrich, in contrast, is widely disliked, even among Republicans.

It’s been a while since Gingrich actually held public office — he was driven from Congress 13 years ago by members of his own party — but for those who’ve forgotten, the former Speaker was widely reviled by the American mainstream. During his brief reign, Gingrich was generally perceived as an ill-tempered, petulant buffoon of weak moral character.

More than a decade later, Newt’s standing with the public hasn’t improved much at all.

Gingrich has completely tanked with Republican voters, providing real confirmation that his campaign rollout has been a total disaster. Only 38% of GOP voters have a favorable opinion of him and there are now more, at 45%, with an unfavorable one. I doubt anyone has ever been nominated for President who ever had negative favorability numbers within their own party less than a year out from the primary season.

Remember, this is just among Republicans.

With the public at large, Gingrich has a stunning 19% favorability rating, a number Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen described as “remarkably bad.” (For comparison purposes, the same poll put Sarah Palin’s favorability rating at 30%, which is awful, but is still 11 points higher than Gingrich’s.)

From time to time, we’ll see analysis pieces on whether a candidate can win national office if he or she suffers from some kind of perceived personality flaw — dull, angry, inauthentic, arrogant, etc.

But with Gingrich, the question is a little different: can a candidate win national office when the public has gotten to know him and Americans actively dislike him? I’m guessing the answer is “no.” Call it a hunch.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • Holmes on May 28, 2011 9:06 AM:

    But the beltway buffoons keep telling me Gingrich is a brilliant ideas man. Only their other resident genius, Paul Ryan, can eclipse his brilliance.

  • AK Liberal on May 28, 2011 9:11 AM:

    With the public at large, Gingrich has a stunning 19% favorability rating, a number Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen described as "remarkably bad."

    Perhaps, Newt's natural constituency is the D.C. press corp and the bookers for the Sunday morning shows.

  • FRP on May 28, 2011 9:18 AM:

    The old adages seem to fit the best , like that old majority rule thing . Ahh , he who lives by the sword , eh Newt .

  • N.Wells on May 28, 2011 9:21 AM:

    Perhaps he said "gross roots"? Or was referring to crabgrass? If it wasn't that most of the other Republican candidates that I can think of have been equally repellent jokes, I'd agree with the "once or twice in a century" assessment, after noting that the century is still very young.

    Also, one has to stand in awe of the monumental single-mindedness of that 19%. If we could only harness that mental power for a good purpose .........

  • RSA on May 28, 2011 9:24 AM:

    With the public at large, Gingrich has a stunning 19% favorability rating, a number Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen described as “remarkably bad.” (For comparison purposes, the same poll put Sarah Palin’s favorability rating at 30%, which is awful, but is still 11 points higher than Gingrich’s.)

    It's not quite apples to apples, but I believe Gingrich's favorability is in the same range as Obama's, as judged by Republicans.

  • kevo on May 28, 2011 9:24 AM:

    I once saw a blimp in the sky with the name, "Gingrich's Ego" on its stern!

    Yes, DC Press Corp, Newtie is your boy, not ours! -Kevo

  • jrosen on May 28, 2011 9:30 AM:

    It would be funny if it weren't both pathetic and frightening. Are there still a few pundits who find a character as delusional as Newt a plausible candidate for the person who controls the world's largest nuclear arsenal?

    BTW, this is the same test I apply first to all possible presidents: do you want this person with their finger on the red button? It rules out a lot of people quickly.

  • Okie on May 28, 2011 9:42 AM:

    "...an ill-tempered, petulant buffoon of weak moral character."

    That sums it up pretty well.

  • bob h on May 28, 2011 9:42 AM:

    You suspect that Gingrich, like Palin, is conducting a sham, pretend candidacy only as a way to replenish a brand that supports lucrative business and commercial activities. This is just a way of making a living, and is the latest Republican corruption of our democracy.

    I think the Founding Fathers would be aghast at the prospect of Presidential candidates treating the process as just a money-making proposition.

  • T-Rex on May 28, 2011 9:46 AM:

    Two words.

    Richard Nixon.

  • martin on May 28, 2011 9:50 AM:

    Gingrich was generally perceived as an ill-tempered, petulant buffoon of weak moral character.

    Weren't these Bush's only redeeming characteristics?

  • martin on May 28, 2011 9:52 AM:

    Couldn't pass this up. My Captcha is "Jewasta überhaupt"

  • Skip on May 28, 2011 2:04 PM:

    Grassroots? Like the kind you see looking up from hell? I'd say he's got a very good bead on his campaign.

  • Big River Bandido on May 28, 2011 6:45 PM:

    ...can a candidate win national office when the public has gotten to know him and Americans actively dislike him?


    Hey, if Phil Gramm can run...

    oh, you said "win". Ha ha.

  • toowearyforoutrage on May 29, 2011 9:51 PM:

    I'm voting Obama, but for curiosity's sake, can we hear why Gary Johnson sucks?

    He's for legalizing weed and thereby saving LOTS of unproductive tax money and relieving crowded prisons. That's the good news, what's the bad?


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