NEWT! Finally an Adult in the GOP Primary Race

OK, Newt’s an adulterer, and not that much of an adult, but the Republicans have got to take what they can get, I suppose.  This week’s polling of the Republican Presidential primary field is about the most ludicrous yet.  Sure, we all knew that serial sexual harrasser Herman Cain would go down eventually.  But I have to admit I thought the Mittster would rise as the only challenger, despite that the canine vote might not go his way, not to mention the flip flop nonsense.  .  .

Here’s the CNN poll, with Newt the adulterer in a statistical tie with Romney the flip flopper: 

A new national survey of Republicans indicates that it’s basically all tied up between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, with Gingrich on the rise and businessman Herman Cain falling due to the sexual harassment allegations he’s been facing the past two weeks.

According to a CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday, 24% of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP say Romney is their most likely choice for their party’s presidential nominee with Gingrich at 22%. Romney’s two-point advantage is well within the survey’s sampling error.

And here’s the Public Policy Polling poll that shows Newt waaaay ahead of Romney, with even Herman Cain ahead of Romney: 

Newt Gingrich has taken the lead in PPP’s national polling. He’s at 28% to 25% for Herman Cain and 18% for Mitt Romney. The rest of the Republican field is increasingly looking like a bunch of also rans: Rick Perry is at 6%, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at 5%, Jon Huntsman at 3%, and Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum each at 1%.

I’ll admit, I was hoping Rick Santorum or the crazy Michele Bachmann would be the next GOP flavor-of-the-day, but I’m pleased it is Newt this time.  The question is about how long he holds this place in the GOP firmament.  Will the religious conservatives overlook Newt’s adulterous past because he screwed over his ex-wives in order to honor his country?  Will the Teabaggers castigate Newt for his personal fiscal failings?  Or will the rest of the GOP electorate honor Newt for his extreme closeness to lobbyists, including Newt’s own lobbying for Freddie Mac?  I suspect you won’t hear much about any of these issues in the mainstream press unless the Romney camp decides it is time to attack. 

And there’s the rub.  Not many in the GOP Presidential primary field have focussed on Mitt Romney’s flip flops, whether they be on healthcare or on the right to abortion.  I’d LOVE to see Gingrich get it into his head that he’s got a chance here and really go about tearing into Romney.  Or maybe other candidates like Bachmann or Perry or Cain will go to it.  Whatever happens, it looks to me like the rise of Newt means chaos in the GOP Presidential primary. 

This is going to be good.  Heck, maybe when it’s all said and done they’ll nominate Rick Santorum, or Jon Huntsman.  Glee! 



The dark horse

Though it’s obviously really early to start projecting which Republicans will seek to unseat President Obama in 2012, Mitt Romney won the annual straw poll held by the Conservative Political Action Convention yesterday, garnering 20 percent of the votes. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal followed Romney with 14 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 13 percent, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with 13 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 10 percent and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 7 percent, while others on the ballot included South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

Absent from the ballot was one possible 2012 Republican presidential contender who’s not getting much press right now but who I see as a major player in 2012 – Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. Huntsman’s absence from the CPAC straw poll is likely due to his absence from CPAC, as well as the fact that he likely risked being booed off the stage for some of his views. Huntsman has emerged as an unapologetic spokesman for a new brand of Republicanism that falls somewhere between moderate Northeastern Republicanism and the far-right conservatism so prevalent in the Sun Belt:

Huntsman thinks the party’s challenge is more profound, owing less to its excessive spending practices during the Bush era than to sweeping demographic and political changes that threaten to consign
Republicans to a long-term minority status and confine their appeal to narrow sections of the country.

The party needs to be more intellectually rigorous, and to compete for the votes of the young, the elites and minorities, he said in an interview with POLITICO. To do so, the GOP needs to tack toward the middle on environment, gay rights and immigration. And, yes, Ronald Reagan is to be admired – but as much for his oft-overlooked pragmatism as for his conservative principles.

If it can find traction with the conservative base of the Republican Party, Huntsman’s message could be a powerful counter to President Obama in 2012, and it could expand the Republican Party’s base, which has been narrowing in recent elections. If the Republican Party is going to rebound from the defeats of 2006 and 2008, it must broaden its appeal, but it remains to be seen if Jon Huntsman’s message will resonate with Republican supporters – or whether he’ll just be “booed off the stage.”