The liberal media is feasting on the Romney-Gingrich battle, eager to see the formidable frontrunner seriously weakened as this contest moves forward. Why? Because they are scared to death that Romney might beat President Obama in November, and they think that Gingrich will drill holes in Romney more effectively than Obama can.
The contest has already weakened the GOP leader in some ways. In other ways, though, it has made him stronger. Americans now see that the former Massachusetts governor can play hardball. No longer floating above the fray, Mr. Romney has thudded to earth with a vengeance. He has lashed out at Gingrich’s Freddie Mac connections, his ethics problems while in Congress and his attacks on the federal judiciary. This last theme – Gingrich’s notion that as president he might just ignore the Supreme Court if its judgments displeased him-- hasn’t come up recently, but it is completely typical of the kind of irresponsible wool-gathering that Gingrich engages in and then passes off as “big thinking.”
Still, the skirmishes in South Carolina and Florida have opened up an appealing line of attack for the White House. Gingrich honed in on Romney’s private equity career and spun it as dishonorable. Remarkably, the Romney camp was unprepared. Lately, the GOP frontrunner has defended his career, as well he should. This is extremely important. With the economy still limping along, Romney will put his business acumen up against President Obama’s fuzzy Big Government panaceas.
He will place responsibility squarely in Obama’s lap – not for the recession, but for our slow recovery. With the GOP race coming next to Nevada, a state whose high unemployment is concentrated in the construction trades, Romney can blast Obama, the Keystone Pipeline slayer. It will be an appealing pitch to a state (and a nation) whose economy has yet to reboot.
The White House knows this. Up-to-date polling shows Romney and Obama in a virtual dead heat – remarkable considering the bruising Romney has taken recently and since Obama carries the incumbent halo. In endless campaign appearances, the president is throwing new ideas for housing and employment into the ether like confetti, so eager is he to appear engaged. Unfortunately, he spent his first two years in office (backed by a Democrat Congress) solidly focused on healthcare. His indifference to the jobs crisis was criticized at the time; it will surely be pounded in the upcoming election. Unless the economy gains considerable traction, Mr. Obama will be vulnerable. If Romney is the candidate, the GOP will have a real shot at the White House.
Note to Gingrich as he continues to whine about Romney outspending him: Raising money is part of the job. A candidate is supposed to win over backers; that helps him win over voters. One of the sharpest (and most reasonable) criticisms of Newt Gingrich is his inept organization. His top campaign staff quit last June, citing a lack of commitment from the former speaker. He has failed to get on several ballots – including Virginia, his home state -- and is generally running from behind. That’s not how you dig in and do the grunt work necessary to be taken seriously. This is not so surprising. On many fronts Gingrich fails the “serious candidate” test. He is on an ego-driven mission to combat what he laughably calls the “establishment.” The former Speaker of the House and highly paid lobbyist isn’t just a Beltway insider, he's a Republican spoiler.