Let’s begin by stating the positive point for Newt Gingrich. He might not, as Pete Spiliakos says, prove ten foot tall in debate, though he is approaching ten foot wide. But he is quite effective in expressing whatever idea he happens to be developing at the moment. He talks in terms that seem understandable. On this score, he has few equals. But, as Pete point outs, the ideas he is developing at any moment may be very different from the ones he developed at another moment. How long can he play Houdini? Ron Paul’s ad in Iowa attacking Gingrich is one of the more compelling I have seen. It will be interesting to see whether, given its source, the ad will prove effective.

The problem today in the GOP remains, so to speak, structural. The anti-Romney slot is large, and Romney has not (yet) succeeded in bringing a portion of those voters into his camp. He has been running against himself and, so far, not winning. So someone has kept popping up in that slot, from Trump, to Perry, to Cain, to Newt. Newt has a couple of qualities that the others do not, but those currently supporting him are not all that enthusiastic. Take a look at the Iowa polls, and see how ambivalent many are about his suitability for the presidency.

This leaves many in the GOP with a dilemma: back someone they consider to be deeply flawed (Newt) or resign themselves to someone whom they recognize generally to be fairly competent, though not, so to speak, their cup of tea (Mitt). Imagine how conflicted some folks must feel supporting  Newt Gingrich, given not only his personal liabilities, but the way he has made his living over the past decade. This, compared to a candidate whose only personal failing seems to have been to have tried a beer, but did not swallow.

How will this dilemma be resolved? One way would be to walk the plank with Newt. Another would be for voters to conclude that they can live with Mitt Romney, who could actually gain credibility by fighting his way to victory; he would emerge as the Tim Tebow of the political world. Another still would be to go back to one of the others in the field, one of the Ricks (Perry or Santorum), Michele, or—George Will’s beau ideal of a statesman—John Huntsman. Yet another is that, failing a convincing run by Mitt, the collective forces in the party—pundits, voters, some delegates, political leaders—will “draft” a candidate in the slot Newt now is occupying. That slot may be defined as someone acceptable to populist conservatives while also respected by the rest of the GOP, and even to many independents. The tragedy to date in this election, which is rightly declared as one of the most important in our history, is that there are more than a few in the GOP who meet this test; they are just not now in the race. Tim Pawlenty once vied for this slot (why did he drop out?), but he was not exactly a hit as a candidate. This leaves the likes of Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, or Chris Christie. If Mitt Romney cannot pull off a convincing act in a reasonable time, it is not impossible that the draft scenario will come into play. It will likely assume the form of an agreed “team “(president and vice-president) that will be solicited as a unity and savior ticket. Never mind that those on this list said they would not compete for the nomination; they would not, in effect, be competing in the usual sense, but would be responding to a groundswell. When party and country call, no patriot can fail to answer.

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Articles by James Ceaser

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