1. Unlike Peter, I don’t think that Gingrich’s flip-flops and sell outs have been fully priced in by Republican primary voters. Don’t get me wrong. Many voters are very sympathetic to Gingrich and like what he has said (and especially his style) in debates. The just haven’t heard Gingrich’s flip-flops and sell outs explained in any organized way by someone other than Gingrich (he was never for ca-and-trade, he was a wise historian who tried to get Freddie Mac to reform, and he was only for a mandate in order to stop Hillarycare.) The critiques of Gingrich are bubbling up from the ranks of conservative journalism. You see them in conservative journalism The George Wills, Ramesh Ponnurus, and Jennifer Rubins of the world don’t command legions, but their writing will work its way into parts of center-right-opinion over time. You are starting to see it in Gingrich’s opponents. Ron Paul just went on the air with a one minute version of his hard hitting anti-Gingrich ad from last week. The narrative is slowly changing. The pro-Gingrich stories are about horserace (look at his poll numbers.) The anti-Gingrich stories are about ideology and trust (flip-flops and sell outs.) I think the polls are a lagging indicator here.
The attacks on Gingrich won’t bring him all the way down all by themselves. I was listening to a local conservative radio talk show yesterday. The host (who is very, very cynical about Romney), was going off on Gingrich’s flip-flops. That was, in itself, a bad indicator for Gingrich (not that this show is heard in Iowa.) A lady called up and said that Romney couldn’t beat Obama because Romneycare had a mandate. The host pointed out that Gingrich was for a federal mandate. The lady argued that it didn’t matter because Gingrich would destroy Obama in debate. If (really when) Gingrich has a tough debate, that lady’s fantasy is going to explode. Pretty much all of Gingrich’s opponents will be gunning for him and they have a lot of material to work with.
Some of Gingrich’s support is from people who think he is more consistently conservative than he really is. His opponents are going to fix that. Some of his support is a kind of deal-with-the-devil to support him because they think he is invincible. But he isn’t ten foot tall. He is going into the next debates with very high expectations, opponents who are sharpening the knives, and a boatload of vulnerabilities. His position is far more fragile than his poll numbers would lead one to believe.
2. I caught Bachmann on FOX News Sunday the weekend. Her stuff on Gingrich as an insider made the news but I thought her comments on tax policy were more interesting. She was against extending the payroll tax cut because she said it would blow a hole in the finances of Social Security. She was also in favor of extending the Bush-era tax cuts on high earners because the economy is fragile and we need to put as much money as possible into the hands of the job creators. Way to tell everyone that you represent high earner interest group politics.
3. Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, Pat Toomey has a plan that raises hundred of billions of dollars in revenue from high earners while cutting marginal tax rates in order to spur economic growth. There are some good things happening in the Republican Party if you can just look past the freak show elements of the presidential race.
4. Oh, and real conservative Gingrich’s Medicare reform plan appears to be a mirage according to Yuval Levin. Though to be honest, I don’t think this will hurt Gingrich much unless his opponents are much more skilled and interested in talking about entitlement reform than I think they are. It is however, one more reason to despise the guy who keeps telling us what a radical, substantive, change-oriented guy he is.