Political Animal


December 15, 2011 10:43 AM Newt in Free Fall

By Jonathan Bernstein

The Newt implosion is here — at least, the rapid shift in conventional wisdom against the mistaken idea that he had an excellent chance to win the nomination. The last polls haven’t been strong for the disgraced former Speaker, and a new Rasmussen sounding has him slipping behind Mitt Romney in Iowa. This morning I’ve flagged at least three stories about The Fall of Newt, and for what it’s worth his shares at Intrade have tanked, dropping from close to 40% a week ago to as low as 15% chance at the nomination at one point today before recovering some.

Of course, the conventional wisdom can be way off the reality of the contest. The polls have shifted, yes, but not nearly enough for anyone who thought Gingrich was unstoppable last week to believe he has no chance this week.

Now, those of us who believed he had no chance last week believe that this is just a case of everyone waking up from a silly dream — the polls were always mostly a mirage, proving only that virtually anyone can have a short-term surge. But if you thought Newt’s connection with GOP voters was forged in battle in 1994 and at least somewhat unshakable, then a couple mediocre polls shouldn’t change that, should it?

What I think you’re seeing here is to some extent normal press bandwagon behavior. It’s also, however, the effect of GOP opinion leaders who just don’t want Newt Gingrich to be their nominee. Because they’re perceived as experts, and if they haven’t endorsed anyone neutral (within the GOP) experts, they have a strong say in the spin that will be accepted by the press. And so if they interpret a bad poll for Newt as a big deal, reporters are apt to accept that. The more that highly visible Republicans are eager to bash Newt, the more that his good news is going to be muffled and his bad news amplified. And that’s almost certainly even more true within the partisan press — I’d love to find out how much time Newt’s generally well-received performance in Saturday’s debate picked up on Fox News, for example, compared to his Romney-bashing outburst a couple of days later.

So the real news isn’t so much that Gingrich has slipped a bit in the polls. The real news is how many Republican Party actors want him to be slipping in the polls. And usually that’s the sort of wish that finds a way of making itself come true.

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.


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  • Sslf on December 15, 2011 11:48 AM:

    Isn't the real news that the Republicans are so intellectually and politically bankrupt that they have been, one and all, reduced to this astonishing explosion of clowns from the circus clown car? For years they have cut and scoffed at education, played to mindless and factless resentment, preached rules that they blithely break, and embodied hypocrisy that pivots as does Romney not from one position to another but from six rotating positions to sixty. As Gertrude Stein wrote, "There is no there there." Implosion or just airy collapse is almost inevitable.

  • Josef K on December 15, 2011 12:01 PM:

    This election cycle (at least the Republican primary stage of it) has certainly been one for the books. Doubtless sociologists and behavioral psychologists will be analyzing this silliness for decades to come.

    For the rest of us, its equal parts comedy and despair.

    The sooner this is over, one way or the other, the better.

  • zandru on December 15, 2011 12:03 PM:

    "Newt" has a hard corps of supporters who just love his negatives. He's angry and abrasive and rude? Boo-ya! He cheats on his wives with younger women and shafts them in the divorce proceedings? Hey, that's what men loved to do in the 1950s, along with driving drunk and smoking. Traditional values! Newt's got "ethics problems"? Those picky little Pee Cee rules are stooopid, anyway. Newt is SMART! What do you mean, he's got his history wrong and his current events wrong and he keeps changing his opinion? He SOUNDS smart! And he's not boring and librul, like that guy in the (formerly) White House.

    Maybe there will be enough of them to propel Newt to the nomination.

  • JMG on December 15, 2011 12:14 PM:

    By the same token, if Gingrich hangs on and wins in Iowa, won't that fuel yet another "comeback" story beloved by the idiots who practice political journalism in this country?
    Honestly, if those clowns were sports reporters, they'd file their stories on the World Series after the first batter of the first game.

  • jonas on December 15, 2011 12:26 PM:

    The self-loathing of the average Republican primary voter has to be psychologically overwhelming these days. The only Not-Romney left at this point is Ron Paul, whom I'm sure will get a lot of attention in the coming days, that is, until they discover that he's fine with letting old people die alone in unheated tenements when they run out of savings and doesn't give a rat's ass about Israel, Iran or other imperialist adventures that evangelicals and neocons are continually fapping over.

  • Holly W on December 15, 2011 12:27 PM:

    You or Greg at Plumline last night posted the analysis of intrade's ability to create a bandwagon effect. No doubt Romney's campaign reads Plumline and are smart enough to figure out inside of 5 minutes that they need to start rigging the game in their favor. Next day, wild swings for Mitt and against Newt. Let's discount intrade as an aggregator of conventional wisdom.

    Skeptical about "party actors". Who are they? New Hampshire's new Republican senator. with pretty high GOP approvals, endorses Romney and his lead there starts evaporating. Newt's lead in nationally is still in tact (so far). In Iowa, it seems to be disappearing. But is that party actors or effective hits from his well-funded rivals? Ron Paul's ads make him look like an anti-Newt PAC for all intents and purposes. Dropping even faster than Newt is Romney's pretense at subtlety. He's basically shouting Newt's a lobbyist with a secret wife.

  • Capt Kirk on December 15, 2011 12:28 PM:

    Get ready for Ron Paul to wipe the floor with Newt Romney in Iowa.

  • c u n d gulag on December 15, 2011 12:34 PM:

    The Powers-that-be are starting to flex their muscles.

    I go back to what I said before - they're searching for someone else.

    And I think it may end up being Jeb and a VP candidate of either Ryan, McDonnell, Christie, or maybe even Nikki Haley (though she may be either too Southern, or too inexperienced).

    I thought Rubio had a great shot at the VP, but if somehow do circle the wagons around Jeb, Marco's both too Southern, and too "Florida-y."

    The ones I listed above have genuine Conservative and Teabagger bone-head a' fide's.

    The American public has a very, very short memory, and all Jeb will have to do is prove that he's NOT George - which he clearly is not.

    The rest will be up to the sales and marketing arms of the corporations flooding the airwaves.
    And with "Citizens United," I feel that they're looking forward to the challenge.

    Besides, what would piss-off the Liberals more than another Bush running for President?
    And this time with a Teabagger as VP.


    And isn't that all that modern Conservatism's about - whatever pisses-off the Liberals the most.
    Think of the joy if they win!!!

    Then, 'I'll see you in the Gulag!'

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on December 15, 2011 12:35 PM:

    "...this is just a case of everyone waking up from a silly dream..."

    I second Jonas, above. If what Jonathan says is true, I would liken this more to, say, waking up from a wild night of drunken revelry to see a loathsome pile of vile asleep on the pillow next to you. One of those situations when the first instinct is to bolt for the front door and hope 1)he doesn't wake up before you make it out and 2) that you didn't leave your cell phone in the mad dash.

    I guess they can just blame it on the kool-aid for sleeping with, politically speaking, the King of Skeeze...

  • DAY on December 15, 2011 12:36 PM:

    The rabid ReichWing that makes up a majority of the Republican primary festival gives short shrift to the George Wills and National Journals, with their sober and measured analysis of the candidates.
    As zandru says above, they want their red meat, and they want it NOW!

    For confirmation of this, see O'Donnell, Christine and the Tea Party, vs the Establishment. How'd that work out for ya ol' Georgie Will?

  • Ron Byers on December 15, 2011 12:45 PM:

    Ok, who wins this mess? Nobody in the Republican field has a chance against Obama, but apparently nobody in the Republican field can beat anybody else in the Republican field.

    Boehner and McConnell are doing all they can to tank the American economy to help some member of this motley crew. How sad.

  • T2 on December 15, 2011 12:57 PM:

    Gulag, I agree with your earlier comment that in the end TeaBaggers will support the GOP nominee....what choice do they have with a black guy running for the Dems.

  • c u n d gulag on December 15, 2011 1:05 PM:

    And that's what it really comes down to, isn't it?

    How sadly true.

    But they can claim that they're not racist because they supported one of their own!

  • FriscoSF on December 15, 2011 1:08 PM:

    Which only proves: a little Nude Gingrich goes a long way


  • SadOldVet on December 15, 2011 1:44 PM:

    Or it the polling showing that the repuke voters in IoWayOut are facing the same problem that will face all voters next fall; that of having to select between the lesser of two weasels?

    In IoWayOut, the social conservatives have general control of the state's repuke selection process. With the reality of either Mittens or Neutered Gingrich, what is a religious reich wing nut to do? Vote for the Planned Parenthood supporter or vote for the serial adulter? Neither choice is engendered to send a thrill down the legs of social conservatives!

    We progressives face a similar, but easier to solve, dilema next fall! Our choice will be The Capitulator In Chief or a totally awful repuke! Not only do we have to hold our noses and chose the Lesser of Two Weasels; we have to convince those we know and meet to do the same.

    P.S. - Mr. Bernstein...
    The Craptcha works as horribly with or without Steve's presence!

  • chi res on December 15, 2011 1:46 PM:

    The latest Gallup Daily seems to confirm your thesis:

  • chi res on December 15, 2011 1:51 PM:

    SGB: I would liken this more to, say, waking up from a wild night of drunken revelry to see a loathsome pile of vile asleep on the pillow next to you.

    I thought we agreed not to talk about that any more!?!

  • Trollop on December 15, 2011 2:03 PM:

    It's Christine O'Donnell's "dabbling" effect, again..

    She's got her Mittens Mandragora!

    And Ron Paul wiping the floor in Iowa; it appears that he's qualified to do so. I'm so tired of politics, it doesn't work, it makes people who aren't rich miserable and the current core mantra is so disgusting from a humanitarian perspective that nuclear winter is nearly more preferable.

  • Kane on December 15, 2011 2:51 PM:

    Following the historic election of Barack Obama that also expanded the Democratic party's control of both houses of congress with Nancy Pelosi being the first female Speaker and most powerful ranking woman in American history, who do you think was the one individual in 2009 with the most appearance­s on Meet the Press?

    If you answered Newt Gingrich, you are correct. This, despite his not holding elected office for more than a decade. Gingrich served the needs of political and media establishm­ent. He was a valuable asset for the status quo in creating and maintainin­g dissension­. They created this monster, provided him with a good living, promoted his books, and kept his name and face in the news as if what he had to offer was meaningful, relevant, and sage wisdom. Now these very same grocery clerks want us to know that they are appalled by everything their errand boy stands for.

  • Ron Byers on December 15, 2011 2:52 PM:

    Trollop, I feel your pain, but nobody ever said democracy would be easy.

  • JayinOregon on December 15, 2011 3:19 PM:

    This happens every 4 years. Given any thoughts to how the Rs reluctantly ended up with McCain in 2008? GWB in 2000/2004?

    The right wingers have no policies. They routinely settle for an "acceptable" hater.

    Of course, we have the appeaser and a milk toast Prez in Obama. What a travesty that is played out for the US Presidency.

  • Lodidian on December 15, 2011 4:29 PM:

    Newt used to be the latest "not Romney." What the Republican leaders are seeking now is a "not Newt," and Romney may not be able to fill that role. Back when Jimmy Carter "discovered" Iowa, he actually didn't win the caucus -- he came in second to "uncommitted." Republican leaders may need to get behind an "uncommitted" slate so they can rally behind a "not Newt" and a "not Romney" at a later date -- in smoke-filled rooms at the convention?

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on December 15, 2011 4:38 PM:

    chi res: I thought we agreed not to talk about that any more!?!

    Sh!t happens. No hard feelings...

  • chi res on December 15, 2011 4:45 PM:

    @SadOldVet & JayinOregon

    Keep it up and you'll deserve every violation of decency the republicans throw at you.