Gingrich Amid Rapidly Rising Polls: “I’m Going to Be the Nominee” (UPDATED)

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

It’s been said of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich that there’s the good Newt and the bad Newt — and the bad Newt is also an arrogant Newt who often destroys himself with his mouth. He isn’t there yet, but his tone has now changed as he is zooming up in the polls and as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney can no longer in reality be called “the front-runner.” In an interview with ABC News’ Jake Trapper Gingrich displayed a dismissive attitude towards the other GOPers who seek the 2012 Presidential nomination — and flatly said he’ll be the nominee, so why should he bother answering them?

Here’s the text:

TAPPER: “How do you respond to Republicans who say if you don’t draw distinctions with Mitt Romney and others who are attacking you, if you don’t point out their perceived vulnerabilities, Barack Obama and the Democrats sure aren’t going to share that same reluctance and you are doing Obama a favor by staying positive?”

GINGRICH: “They are not going to be the nominee. I don’t have to go around and point out the inconsistencies of people who are not going to be the nominee. They are not going to be the nominee.

TAPPER: “You are going to be the nominee?”

GINGRICH: “I’m going to be the nominee. It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee. And by the way I don’t object if people want to attack me, that’s their right. All I’m suggesting that it’s not going to be very effective and that people are going to get sick of it very fast. And the guys who attacked each other in the debates up to now, every single one of them have lost ground by attacking. So they should do what they and their consultants want to do. I will focus on being substantive and I will focus on Barack Obama.

The question is whether Gingrich’s rapid rise is just one more instance of unhappy Republican conservative political consumers looking for a decent product or whether this is for real.

One bit of advice as this unfolds: IGNORE the conventional wisdom.

The conventional wisdom is as enduring as the stands Romney took on issues back in the good (if you liked Romney as a moderate)/bad (if you’re a conservative and he was the kind of Republican Governor you feel hurts the party) old days when he was a moderate Republican governor.

Until recently, it was a CERTAINTY in the conventional wisdom (I wrote from that perspective as well, by the way) that Gingrich was through. In fact, politics is fluid. And despite Gingrich still being written about as a longshot, he could get the nomination due to a host of factors. Just a few:

  • Conservatives simply do not trust Mitt Romney and this goes beyond his positions. They consider him shifty and another potential GWB or Gerald Ford. Remember that many correctly note that Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan could probably not get the nomination in today’s GOP.
  • His debate performances suggested he is tough and smart enough to debate Barack Obama.
  • The slash and burn rhetoric that he helped instill in the Congress and in our national political rhetoric is now what many Republican partisans thirst to hear. Those who insist on a quieter or less slash and burn style are considered weak.
  • He appeals to many older voters.
  • Yes he has tons of baggage but so much of it has been revealed and seen that he has been innoculated. There will need to be new baggage uncovered.
  • If he looks like a winner and Romney looks like a)a loser b)a compromiser c)a closet RINO then we might see Fox News’ Roger Ailes and conservative talker/chief de facto Republican strategist Rush Limbaugh get behind Gingrich.
  • The press has a love hate relationship with Gingrich. He is also described as a kind of loveable political scoundrel. Part of the reason (and I am talking here as a former longtime reporter) is that journalists absolutely adore sources and news subjects who a)are quote machines b)are accessible.
  • Except for his recent, largely disastrous interview on Fox News, Mitt Romney has been trying to avoid interviews with the mainstream media. That is a HUGE mistake and will hurt him — and I predict cost him. Gingrich has no such reluctance.
  • Gingrich will likely win over the tea party and he has a chance to begrudingly win over establishment types who are resisting him now.
  • Watch New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie is clear a politico who marches to his own drummer. In some ways he is a 21st century conservative with leanings towards the Tea Party; in other ways he is a more traditional East Coast Republican Governor so if he does run one day he will have to change positions or strongly defend them because he will be criticized by some on the Republican right. He has endorsed Romney and is aggressively campaigning for Romney. When he talks it’s him talking but he also likely reflects the views of GOP establishment types.

    If you had to place money on it, you could bet that the Bush family is rooting for Mitt Romney right now because either a)he is closer to them politically b)they feel if he loses it’d be easier for them to pick up the pieces and re-exert control over the party than if the Tea Party is in control of the party machinery.

    So Gingrich’s confidence is not wild. Just as his arrogance is not hidden. And that could cost him.

    UPDATE: Hot Air’s Allahpundit:

    Tapper’s referring to a story in RCP today about Newt telling his team not to go negative, no matter how nasty Romney et al. get. (Why would Gingrich need to attack Romney when Huntsman is doing such a good job of it?) That was Romney’s strategy until now, of course: Take an above-it-all approach when you’re being attacked to seem more presidential and train your fire on Obama to endear yourself to the base. But he can’t sit back and wait for Gingrich to implode because Iowa’s too close and Newt is too polished a candidate, so suddenly he’s scrambling to push old stuff that’s already priced into Gingrich’s stock — touting his own marriage to draw an implicit contrast with Newt’s personal life for social cons and criticizing him for being a career politician, etc. He’s even got Chris Christie playing attack dog for him on the latter point, reminding reporters that Gingrich has “never run anything.” Does the first Republican House in 40 years count as “anything”? Good lord. No wonder Romney seems so testy lately. He’s a desperate man.

    If we’re really going to do this, can we at least first have a semi-competitive primary between Newt and a more conservative candidate? Perry’s still out there, you know, hangin’ around at five percent for a big hug from the base. All you have to do is wish it to make it so! Or have we already decided that Newt is a “Very Strong Conservative” because he’s the new Not Romney and that’s just the way it is? Exit question: Second look at a brokered convention?

    My additional reaction?

    To me, this is another example of how American politics has become The Battle of the Mega Millionaires.