Today Floridians will make a choice that will affect the rest of the country as they head to the polls to vote for a republican presidential candidate. In typical presidential primaries, this choice was left to states earlier in the game, as candidates dropped after results came in from Iowa or New Hampshire. Then, republicans watched the drawn out democratic primary last election cycle, and apparently liked what they saw.
Now Florida will make a choice that could effectively end the competition in this primary cycle. Hopefully, for republicans, that choice will end with a farewell speech by former Speaker Gingrich.
Last month Gingrich saw a rise in polls in Florida that lasted until late last week. That rise was predicated on Gingrich’s sharp tongue and strong debate performances. With republican primary voters clamoring for someone to vote for whose name didn’t rhyme with Bomney, they lost track of what they had in Gingrich the presidential candidate.
To begin with, most qualms these voters had with former Gov. Romney extend to Gingrich. Gingrich has had more than enough questionably conservative moments. Those moments include advocating President Bush’s prescription drug bill that conservatives loathe, joining with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a call to investigate climate change and, most recently, calling the much-loved Rep. Ryan budget “right-wing social engineering.” Unfortunately that list is not exhaustive as Gingrich has a number of non-conservative moments both recently and in his decades of public service. Some of those, like with Romney, might translate well to independents in the general election. But we’re not there yet.
Conservatives voting now need to beware: Gingrich is a lot more like Romney than they think, just with less morality and more volatility.
On the question of morality, there are a lot of angles that are obvious with Gingrich, many of them not worth repeating. One that matters, however, comes from the very thing that skyrocketed Gingrich to his win in South Carolina.
During a debate performance right before the voting began, Gingrich told CNN’s John King that his campaign offered their own sources to rebut what his ex-wife said in an ABC interview. That moment, complete with a lecture to King about the elite media, ended in applause and a standing ovation for Gingrich. Turns out they did no such thing. Which means what Gingrich said (and he said it more than once) was a lie. Lying so blatantly corroborates the other things we’ve heard about his morality and his personal style in Congress. It also completely debunks his campaign against the media.
It also points to the other big problem with Gingrich the presidential candidate, or worse, the president: he’s too volatile.
If you didn’t watch last Thursday’s debate, number one zillion for anyone keeping count, you missed evidence of this problem. By all accounts, Gingrich was a completely different candidate, unable to defend himself from attacks and also unable to lodge attacks of his own. Normally, one might say it was just an off night. But for someone who has waged a campaign almost completely on solid debate performances, it’s worrisome.
Gingrich’s volatility extends beyond up and down debate performances. He was the candidate of generosity early in the campaign, stating over and over how republicans should not attack each other, but rather President Obama. That only lasted until he got attacked. Romney’s attacks against him in New Hampshire angered him so much his super PAC (political action committee) released a documentary that had Michael Moore excited.
“It was fun to hear what I have been saying for 20 years, not just by any Republican candidate, but Newt Gingrich,” Moore told The New York Times.
The same paper also published a story questioning the accuracy of the claims made in that documentary. A paper that is part of the elite, left-wing media, according to Gingrich.
Whatever distance Gingrich tried to paint between him and the super PAC that released the left-wing, bogus documentary, he still comes out the loser. The loser who cannot be counted on for smooth sailing from one moment to the next.
Floridians seem to have finally seen Gingrich for what he is and today’s primary results should reflect that sentiment, which is the best bet for the Republican Party.