In the struggle for the Republican presidential nomination candidates are searching for every advantage they can find, desperate to reach constituencies which can help them gain an advantage over their rivals. Some of them are getting more desperate and more manipulative as they fall behind, even resorting to some pretty blatant lying about their records, their beliefs and their intentions.
Listen to this audio clip without looking at the image attached to it, the way you would hear it on the radio:
Sure sounds like just what we need, a champion of the grassroots of the Republican Party ready to stand up for the little people against big governmnet, political insiders and the party establishment. Sounds like my kind of candidate.
Then go to the website which goes with this stirring radio ad, timetochoose.com. Bet it wasn’t what you expected to see. I know I was surprised. After the ad I assumed it was a powerful new pitch for Ron Paul. I sure wasn’t expecting something so far from the ad’s description as Newt Gingrich.
Newt is many things, but a grassroots alternative to the party leadership is not one of them. I’m not even convinced he’s the conservative he claims to be. Despite having served in public office, it’s arguable that Romney with his background in business and state government experience is far more distant from the corrupt leadership in DC, while Gingrich was at the pinnacle of that leadership when he served as Speaker of the House.
The real target of this campaign is the growing number of “soft” Ron Paul voters – mainstream Republicans who are so fed up with the party leadership and political insiders that they are being drawn to Paul despite some of his more radical positions. These primary voters see Paul as the only candidate really looking at the issues which concern them, and while they may be uncomfortable with his foreign policy and a few other positions, they do recognize him as a genuine conservative and a political outsider. The efforts of the party to throw roadblocks in his way has validated his claim to that status.
The Gingrich campaign has a problem. There is one too many candidates in the primary and Gingrich seems to be the odd man out. Santorum has staked out the religious right constituency. Romney has the moderate, corporatist vote. Ron Paul is sewing up the fiscal conservatives and libertarians. Those three broad groups pretty much make up the party and there’s not really anyone left over for Gingrich.
Gingrich has been left trying to pick up the leftovers from all three groups and it’s just not working for him. The other candidates are just better at appealing to their particular niche audiences and Gingrich can’t win any of those groups based on his record or an honest presentation of his positions. He’s too personally immoral for Santorum’s supporters, too unpredictable for Romney’s followers and too much of a big government insider for Paul’s supporters.
Gingrich’s handlers did figure one thing out right. They know that Republican voters are unhappy with the party leadership and just about anyone who already has a job in Washington DC. The “anyone but Romney vote” extends beyond that to “anything but the status quo” and that’s a real constituency if you can define yourself as the authentic outsider.
The problem is that Gingrich in no way qualifies as a political outsider. The anti-establishment crowd is just not his constituency. To anyone who knows his record and background advertisements like this one which try to redefine him just seem bizarre and mendacious. In his desperation he’s trying to dislodge a small segment of Ron Paul’s support base, but it is not his constituency and he’ll never really be the outsider they want. I hope primary voters won’t be fooled by this slick but deeply deceptive ad campaign. It’s time for Gingrich to go.