Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Gingrich-Romney could be like Dems in 2008, but is closer to Carter-Kennedy circa 1980

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Newt Gingrich is from Georgia, next to South Carolina. And Gingrich won South Carolina. Mitt Romney is from Massachusetts, next to New Hampshire. And Romney won New Hampshire.

Republicans are used to things being pretty much done by South Carolina. After all, hasn’t it been drilled into your head that each GOP nominee won South Carolina?

We heard a lot in 2008 that no previous Democratic primary ever was like the one in 2008. While the drama won’t be as intense, 2012 may prove to be a longer battle for the Republicans.

Who would have thought that Newt Gingrich would be on the top of the conservatives list? Last summer, having Gingrich around felt like a 41-year-old guy at a frat kegger, where time had passed him by.

The one major difference between the Dems in 2008 and the GOP in 2012 is that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were strong candidates where each major GOP candidate has more holes than Swiss cheese, er, American processed cheese product with holes in it.

If hubris were a presidential trait, Gingrich would be making plans for DC on January 21 (January 20 is on a Sunday in 2013). If being cluelessly rich were a presidential trait, Romney would be planning on how to get his dog on top of the White House.

Romney has the advantage of money, ground forces, and ballot status. Gingrich has the anger, some conservative cred, and did we mention anger?

Ron Paul is staying around, but what about Rick Santorum? You could argue that if Santorum had won Iowa at the time, he could have propelled himself with momentum. Regardless, Santorum should have done way better in South Carolina. Hard to see how Santorum does that well in Florida, if he makes it that far. Unlike Gingrich, Santorum doesn’t have a extra billionaire in his pocket.

Having the first presidential election race under the umbrella of the Super PACs will throw off the dynamic of how things will go. Gingrich has benefited from extra $ (Sheldon Adelson gave Gingrich $5 million and Miriam Adelson, Sheldon’s wife, added another $5 million. The Adelsons get their $ from gambling in Las Vegas. Family values?) and Santorum hasn’t, and $ is why Gingrich is the conservative candidate and Santorum isn’t. Well, that and Gingrich dominates the stage and Santorum is too quiet.

The major path to throwing Romney off the nomination is to have a strong conservative candidate who can go toe-to-toe with President Barack Obama. The teabaggers have had some time to consider this, and the most conservative candidate standing is no pure teabagger, but he does share their anger.

Romney has caught in a 3-way race in 2008 and watched helplessly as John McCain came along and won all the delegates in a state with far less than 50% of the vote. Romney was hoping that Santorum could be the Mike Huckabee of 2008: social conservative that won Iowa but couldn’t win much more than that. Unlike 2008, 2012 is more about $ with the Super PACs, and unless Romney’s SuperPAC helps Santorum, or Stephen Colbert shifts to help Santorum, Romney’s strategy will come up short. Now that South Carolina, Colbert is no longer “running” for President of the United States of South Carolina.

Still, Romney has the advantage. Assumption that you are the likely nominee still gets you far, regardless of party. Perhaps the best analogy for Romney and Gingrich is 1980. No, not Reagan and Bush, but Carter and Kennedy. Yes, Carter was an incumbent, but Romney parallels Carter a little in that “he’s the best we got.” Gingrich as Ted Kennedy — not a phrase you see often — because he has the fire and the soul lacking in the incumbent. Democratic people could only hope the GOP 2012 version comes close to the battle for the Dems in 1980.

If Gingrich is counting on his win in South Carolina matching up to a nomination, that and $374,327.62 gets you Romney speeches for a year. In 2012, the usual rules are up for grabs for the GOP. The Dems learned in 2008 that once you are in one of those cycles, the ride will be long and strenuous. The ultimate victor might be stronger as a result, but even that time-tested virtue is up for grabs in 2012.

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