The battle for the Republican nomination is coming down to Gingrich vs. Romney, and the debate over who will be easier to beat in November is heating up among liberals.
Since the start of this election season, we’ve had the pleasure of watching Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum all have their moment in the sun as front-runners in the polls.
The Donald was only kidding; Bachmann hit her peak in the meaningless Iowa Straw Poll; Perry had too many “oops” moments (by that I mean he spoke); Cain was about as serious as The Donald and Santorum lost out on his chance to not be Mitt when Iowa initially counted the results wrong.
I would be remiss not to mention Ron Paul, who has held steady and garnered more support than he is ever given credit for, but never enough to be considered a serious potential nominee.
But now, it’s down to the pompous rich white guy vs. the snarky, condescending Southerner. And the consensus seems to be that Newt is the easier candidate for Obama to beat.
The arguments supporting this make sense: Newt’s past ethics violations and problems with fidelity; he’s unlikeable; he won’t take moderate votes away from Obama like Romney might… I’m sure the list could go on.
But as someone rooting for Obama this fall, albeit half-heartedly, I’d rather run against Romney than Gingrich.
Sure, Newt cheated on his first wife as she struggled with cancer and on his second wife after she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Yeah, he paid out $300,000 in ethics violations and resigned in disgrace –– but everyone who’s voting already knows that.
Recent polls show Newt’s favorability rating ranging from a miniscule 17 percent in a CBS/NYT poll, to a whopping 27 percent and 28 percent in Fox News and CNN polls. Meanwhile, Romney scores a 21 percent, 45 percent and 43 percent, respectively. (Obama’s favorability numbers in these polls are higher than either Republican.)
The Daily Kos and some of my peers argue that this makes Newt unelectable in a general election.
But the problem with making this assumption is that it discounts an important factor –– the anger directed at Obama by the tea bagger-wing of the Republican Party. And since this is the tail that’s been wagging the dog, it shouldn’t be underestimated.
Obama correctly described the 2010 election results as a “shellacking,” and Gingrich, not Romney, excites the base that brought on said shellacking.
And although the moderate vote has been critical in deciding presidential elections historically, 2012 might be different. First and foremost, 2012 will be the first presidential election year since the birth of both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.
On one end you have the Tea Party, who already demonstrated their ability to ignite the grassroots in 2010. On the other you have the Occupiers, who seem more likely to disengage from the process entirely –– potentially hurting the young voter turnout.
Both of these factors work against Obama in a face-off against Gingrich, and both are difficult to weigh this far out from November.
The Republican debates have made it increasingly clear: Gingrich can deliver the red meat and Romney can’t. Watching the two in a debate is like watching Richie Rich try to talk the schoolyard bully into only taking part of his lunch money – and failing to do so.
And if he’s the nominee, Newt will stand on the debate stage with Obama and euphemistically call him boy –– something the conservative base will eat up.
The all-too-polite Romney won’t.
And unfortunately for Romney, not only is he boring, but his values change depending on the temperature of the room. And no matter how much conservatives hate Obama, and they hate him a lot, I don’t think they’ll come out to vote for Romney.
On the other hand, no matter how unelectable Gingrich seems, he has that arrogant, condescending attitude the right seems to crave. And once he gets to direct it at Obama, all bets are off.
My liberal friends say I’m crazy –– we’ll beat Newt way easier than Willard they tell me –– and since it looks increasingly realistic that Newt could be the Republican nominee, I hope they’re right. After all, I’ve been wrong about Newt before.
Jesse Benn is a senior political science major who previously predicted that Newt had no chance at the nomination, oops. His column runs Thursdays in the Collegian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.