Clueless in Tampa Bay

By on January 22, 2012

That electricity in the air in South Carolina produced a stunning victory for Newt Gingrich at the polls. Wise insiders keep saying Romney will still likely be the nominee, but it is starting to sound like election night with Thomas E Dewey all over again. They are nervous. They are incredulous. So why do these talking heads seem to think the hapless Romney will prevail?

1. One reason is the feeling that ‘Romney has access to all the money in the world and in the end the money people will buy him this nomination.’ There is something to this argument. Evidence now is that expensive PAC ads on TV do influence voter thinking. Voters may not like them. They may decry negative campaigning, but TV viewers make note of the content and remember come Election Day.

The current Republican party seems leaderless. They are a minority party in terms of numbers of registered voters nationally, and they are splintered. The titular head, former president George W Bush has been locked away by the party like something out of Jane Eyre. The head of the RNC Reince Priebus behaves like the water-boy, regurgitating the party line no matter how unbelievable, carrying buckets for anyone who asks. The recent primary process has exposed the party as largely in the hands of a few very wealthy contributors with a lot of money to burn on their own issues. Congressmen snap to their commands, hoping for a handout. If the majority of them want Romney, it is likely the go-along-to-get-along Republicans will serve him up.

2. ‘Newt is an undisciplined person who does better when he is attacking from the rear than when he is riding high up front. He will likely say something again that will blow up his candidacy.’ There is a lot of wisdom in this. Newt seems most comfortable on the stump throwing red meat to the crowd.

The meat changes with the crowd. A lot of it is baloney. He correctly gauged the anger in South Carolina. By his own admission he got a lot of support for “putting Juan Williams in his place.” Why did poor abused Juan Williams need to be put in a place?  It doesn’t take much imagination to see that Juan Williams was the stand-in-of-the-moment for Barak Obama, and reactionary voters who have never gotten over the outcome of the 2008 election thrilled to this moment. Williams was quite civil in his questioning. Only rank race-baiting can explain Newt’s manipulative behavior.

Outside the Republican rump and outside South Carolina, this kind of race-baiting will not succeed so easily. Young people do not react predictably to these old-fashioned campaign tactics. With some few exceptions, the majority of the country has moved on into the 21st Century and left this kind of barnyard pandering where it belongs. Playing to the prejudices of every crowd is not a long-term strategy. Crowds vary. What plays well at Fort Sumter may not play so well in Fort Kent, Maine. Newt has made many enemies throughout his career, and he keeps making more. They will pop up to dog him along the trail, from Fort Kent to Fort Tejon, CA.

3. The recent flurry of talk about “food stamp presidents”, and “welfare queens”, and “trust us we’re real business people”, “my third wife and I agree about family values and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman,” “that Obama is spending like a fool? I— Where’s my limousine? it was supposed to be here to take me to my private jet,” “let’s turn poor elementary school kids into janitors” moments are getting so laughable that it is no wonder comedian Stephen Colbert could not resist jumping in. Coupled with thinly veiled race-baiting, this foolish and self-indulgent behavior has exposed the GOP as a party hopelessly mired in the past and longing for the return of a society that is long gone. And many Americans are glad it is gone.  They want the opposition party to speak to 2012 realities. And speak in details, not slogans. Waving the flag of Ronald Reagan is very, very tired answer to today’s problems. The GOP desperately needs new leadership and new messages.

So— Gingrich’s success may be short-lived and Romney may yet prevail— but as a candidate who arrives unelectable, DOA,  at the convention. Just as one cannot transfuse a dead patient back to life with endless units of blood. pumping endless amounts of money in the Romney candidacy may not restore it to life either.

Romney’s best hope now is that nobody is very much paying attention to the campaign,  and that after Labor Day, the electorate will wake up as clueless as he is.


Tom Godfrey

About Tom Godfrey

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