Can't remember something like this ever happening before: Newt Gingrich's campaign staff resigned en masse. Is there anyone in America who honestly thinks Gingrich can/should be president?
There's some scuttlebutt that everyone bailed on Gingrich because his wife was taking too active a role in making strategic decisions like when to go on Greek vacations. I'll agree that his wife was a problem, but not because she is his closest adviser. That's a dynamic that's present in virtually every political marriage these days. No, her problem was the manner in which she became his wife, namely by beginning public life as Gingrich's mistress. I'm no evangelical, but I just don't see how marrying your mistress is an admirable act, no matter how beautiful or classy she might be.
Still, the real reason for Gingrich's troubles can be laid at the candidate's door, not that of his wife's. Gingrich is an engaging Big Picture guy with a real intellectual veneer, but he tends to get caught up in solutions searching for a problem like Global Warming. And for all of his verbal flair, he has a remarkable ability to say the "right" thing the wrong way. When Gingrich declared Paul Ryan's Medicare plan to be "right-wing social engineering," the problem wasn't in the substance - does being conservative now mean accepting Medicare as a permanent fact of life? - but in the expression. Just as Gingrich once undercut the 1994 Revolution with some highly ill-considered speculation about putting poor kids in orphanages, he undercut his own campaign by providing Democrats with an instant bumpersticker slogan. A Gingrich campaign would have had a lot of those.
And speaking of the Nineties, does anyone have happy memories of the Gingrich Speakership? Sure, it was great to have a Republican majority for the first time in 40 years. But I'd say the missed opportunities outnumber the genuine successes like welfare reform. One of the most depressing things I read in the last few years was a passage from Bob Novak's Prince of Darkness in which he interviewed Bob Livingston soon after the dramatic 1994 congressional election, and realized that the appropriators in the GOP caucus would have a lot more power than the conservative freshmen who gave the Old Bulls their majority. We never had a chance! (and remember how conservative 1994 stars like JC Watts, Steve Largent and Dick Armey fell by the wayside, one by one?) Yet, we had to spend the better part of a decade defending Gingrich. All those leftists railing against "cold hearted" conservatives, but all we got out of it was the profligate DeLay congresses of the Bush era.
Gingrich (and us) will always have 1994. Those were heady days, but they were too short because the window for conservative governance can be pitifully small. Gingrich was able to reach the mountaintop but once he was there he largely squandered his chance. We simply can't risk that kind of a result in 2012.