An Interesting Day for Republicans

It looks like Newt Gingrich is about to have his best day on the campaign trail...

...and also his worst.

It's rare to get so many big stories all at once.  It's hard to say how it will shake out.  Here are a few possibilities:

1)  Gingrich is right to say that his marital problems are old news with voters, and the endorsements of his former rival and the 100 TEA Party figures push him over the top in SC.  As the new consensus TEA Party candidate, he goes on to challenge Romney with the solid backing of the more conservative wing of voters.

2)  Republican voters don't like people who screw around with their marriages, meaning that today's new allegations sink Gingrich.  Herman Cain shakes his head in sad sympathy as Gingrich is destroyed by the allegations.

   (As to which:  Why is the headline that he asked for "an open marriage"?  The arrangement is hardly unheard of, especially among the rich and powerful; surely if he had honestly approached his wife with his feelings, and accepted her firm "no," we would take this as a minor sin -- or, these days, even just a quirk -- brought on by a robust nature.  The problems facing Gingrich are that he got around to asking only after he'd already begun enjoying an 'open marriage'; and that, rather than accepting "no," he divorced his second wife for his third.)

There are three sub-cases:

2a)  Gingrich's fall, just as conservative sentiment had lined up behind him, collapses conservative morale and allows Romney to walk to the nomination.

2b) Gingrich's falling numbers causes him to bow out of the race, endorsing Romney as a way to salvage what he can for his political future with the Republican establishment.  While many of his supporters will never accept Romney, enough follow his lead to end the nomination contest.

2c)  Conservatives swap their allegiance to the last non-Romney in the race, Rick Santorum, who was just announced to have actually won Iowa after all.  Only three states having voted so far, there remains a real race for the nomination.

So, the first breaking point is whether we get scenario (1) or one of the sub-cases of (2).  We'll know that pretty soon.  If it's (1), Santorum -- who seems the best of the remaining candidates to me -- probably has no chance of success.  If it's (2), and Gingrich endorses Romney, Santorum also probably cannot overcome the combined weight at this point.  If it's (2) and Gingrich does not endorse Romney, we'll see Romney win anyway unless there is a quick and decisive shift to Santorum.  Even then, he'll be under significant disadvantages of money and establishment support; but perhaps he can make a fight of it there.

Sadly, none of that is in Santorum's hands -- as they say in the NFL, at this point he does not control his own fate.


Cass said...

So here's a question for you, Grim (and also for other readers who might also wish to opine).

What if an opposition book for Rick Santorum were to be released right now? Would you view that as a net good (a source of "useful information")?

How about the same scenario with Gingrich? I'm sure there is plenty of dirt on him given his history.

I am uncomfortable with tactics like this. As you know, I can't stand Gingrich and believe electing him would be a disaster of epic proportions. And yet I don't view it as "useful" that his wife chose this moment to reveal that after serially cheating on several wives, he retroactively tried to renegotiate the terms of his partnership.

If true, the allegation doesn't tell me much about his character that I did not already know.

FWIW, I seriously doubt that Gingrich would ever endorse Romney for the same reason I never though Obama would ask Hillary to be his VP.

Grim said...

Let me ask the question another way, Cass: why don't campaigns publish their oppo books as a regular thing? It's got everything they think ought to convince you not to vote for their opponent: why not publish it, and then -- having document every claim about why I shouldn't vote for you -- spend your money making the case for why you should vote for me?

It's not a rhetorical question: I know the answer. The function of the oppo book is to guide strategic communication. There are a lot of things in any oppo book that you want the voters to know, but that you don't want to have to take responsibility for saying. There are some other things you may want to say, but you want to catch your opponent unprepared and without a response.

It seems to me that both of those tactics are objectively worse than simply publishing the book. Your complaints about tendentious research in the post below are another reason why it would be better to publish the books: research would need to be more careful if it was understood that the claims were going to be subjected to a robust public inquiry. While you're right to say that 'every reader' won't challenge a hundred bad claims, a hundred of the candidate's supporters can each take one if they wish.

I'm not sure why the McCain campaign decided to 'mistakenly' release this book at this time; but in general, I don't have a problem with either the compiling of opposition research, or with its publication. Much as we have antagonistic lawyers in our courts, each trying to make a completely unfair case on behalf of their client and against their opponent, our antagonistic politicians often serve the interest of a justice greater than either of them is capable of alone.

Grim said...

Oh, and Santorum's oppo book is called "Google." He would probably find it refreshing to have people debating his endorsement of an individual mandate rather than the filth that the Left has managed to link to his name in the public space.

Grim said...

By the way -- although this is a minor point in your comment -- I don't think the problem with Gingrich is that he "retroactively tried to renegotiate the terms of his partnership."

That kind of thing happens all the time in a good relationship. Think of all the women who married in the 1940s or 1950s, when the understanding about their role in the marriage was very different from what the understanding would become by the 1980s and 1990s. Over the course of that forty years, they probably approached their husbands many times to renegotiate the terms of the partnership.

The problem isn't with trying to do that, I don't think. The problem is with trying to dictate new terms from a position of power. This is why Mr. Walker's book, mentioned below, is a very interesting example that I hope you might read: what the Prohibitionist wife does is essentially "retroactively trying to renegotiate the terms of his partnership," but without any negotiation. She demands the power to introduce new rules that are against the original customs and understanding, and drives out anyone who objects.

That's what Gingrich did, and it's why he was wrong. But renegotiation of the terms of the partnership is surely fair play, as long as you play fair.

Cass said...

Well I disagree with you once again, Grim.

It's a well known tactic to release reams of information that's too much/too hard to check. I completely disagree that it's objectively worse to release a ton of stuff - that places a burden on both the public and the opposition that's overwhelming.

And that's the whole point. Individual accusations are far easier to deal with.

I think (even if the tactic is used against someone I despise and don't want to win) that it is wrong, and sleazy to boot.

Grim said...

Do you think it's wrong to compile an opposition book? Or just wrong to release it for public consideration?

Grim said...

I ask that question because it seems like -- if it were, as you say, more effective to publish/leak the book -- we'd see publications and leaks more often.

The other thing that happens when you do a huge document dump is that people ignore it, because it's too hard to go through. That's why the White House (not just this one, every one) does their huge Friday dumps: it's a day when people don't have much attention to spare for it, and the big dump means things are more likely to slip by.

Cass said...

Do you think it's wrong to compile an opposition book? Or just wrong to release it for public consideration?

Wrong to release it, mostly. I can think of lots of things that don't cause harm so long as they're not made (sex videos, for instance). The harm is in the public release.

I just thought it was an interesting way to formulate the question. Often when I'm trying to decide if something is wrong per se, I'll ask myself, "How would you feel about this if it happened to X" (someone I like instead of someone I don't care for).

Bias is hard to escape but turning a moral question on its face tends to clarify things a bit.

Grim said...

That seems like a reasonable formulation. I honestly think I'd really prefer if campaigns took full responsibility for publishing their attacks on their opponents. That is really the foul here -- this is McCain's old work, not the Gingrich or Santorum campaign, although they doubtless also have oppo books (at least Gingrich must; Santorum ought to, but he may not have the money).

Somebody's got an oppo book on Santorum, I'm quite sure -- the news piece that ran the morning after Iowa was even titled "Santorum success in Iowq raises questions about past activities." That was probably very close to the title for the leak contingency in the strategic communication plan. A media that had studiously ignored Santorum didn't compile a detailed attack on his record overnight, nor did the press on its own decide to try not to raise his stature by giving him press coverage up until the moment it became important.

I'd ask the question of who it was, but it's pointless -- it's what politicians do, and to suggest it was one rather than another is to give the others credit they probably do not deserve. The game is played this way at that level.

Now, I can see the point with something like sex tapes -- those probably shouldn't be made public for anyone. And there are things like attacks on family members who aren't even running for office that are out of order ('Dick Cheney has a lesbian relative! And she's opposed to some of his policies!' Well, yeah, so what?)

But an oppo book that compiles things like "Candidate X has no real foreign policy experience," or old statements they've made that they ought to have to account for (which was most of what was in the Santorum attack piece the morning after Iowa)... I see no reason the opposing campaign shouldn't publish a book of that kind of stuff. It doesn't strike me as objectively worse than leaking a targeted hit piece to the press, and pretending to have no responsibility for it.

Cass said...

Another test I often use when trying to decide if something is moral or not (this one isn't perfect, but it's damned good) is:

Would you do it in church/in front of your Mother/Father/kids?

If you would feel shame doing it in front of people you care about/respect, that tells you something.

Grim said...

Well, that's a good point also.

Would you feel shame about laying down a book and saying, "This represents a full account of why I feel my opponent should not be elected to the office"? It depends, I suppose, on what kind of material you put in the book; but if the charges were all fit things to bring forward, I would not think it would depend on the length of the book (which seems to be critical to your objection, i.e., that too many charges at once are difficult to rebut).

Now, that said, you have also made an impression on me over the years with another useful distinction: the distinction between what is public and private. There are some things that one ought to do, but not in Church! :)

Cass said...

Well, "admit to it" might be a better test than "do it" :p

Grim said...

Unless you mean in the confessional, for those churches that have them, I think we may still have a case to make. A husband and wife engage in certain practices, between themselves, that neither should proclaim in public -- neither to 'admit to' nor, as it were, to brag about. :)

There are other things of this kind. I don't mean to denigrate the test -- I get the sense of it, and it's not bad for most things. I just mean to say that there are some exceptions, and I imagine we can even agree upon roughly what they are. (Roughly, I say, since naturally neither of us know anything about such things that we'd care to disclose in public.)

Cass said...

I agree. That's why I said it's not as good as the first test - it doesn't work in every circumstance and, as you said, some things don't need to be made public.

FWIW, when I said, "admit to", I was thinking more something like "admit to having sex with my wife" than "provide a blow by blow description of the last time I had sex with my wife" :p

Grim said...

Well, and so said Igrane, asked of the siring of Arthur:

"The same night that my lord was dead, the hour of his death, as his knights record, there came into my castle of Tintagil a man like my lord in speech and in countenance, and two knights with him in likeness of his two knights Prastias and Jordanus, and so I went unto bed with him as I ought to do with my lord, and the same night, as I shall answer unto God, this child was begotten upon me."

Texan99 said...

Gingrich worries me. I very often agree with him, I appreciate the way he can voice stirring sentiments about what I thinks works best for this country -- but sometimes he seems like such a baby.

Grim said...

We've known Newt a long time here in Georgia. He hasn't changed much: he started as a bomb-throwing backbencher in Congress, became Speaker of the House, and now is a bomb-throwing frontrunner for President.

If you get Gingrich, you get a brilliant mind and a hot temper. He doesn't really care what anyone else thinks about anything.

Against that, you have a temperment that is sure to push to the wall for whatever the cause happens to be today; and if you're worried about SCOTUS appointments, you can have confidence that he'll pick guys who are just as unlikely to 'grow in office' as he is himself.

So, you know, if you pick Gingrich you take the bad with the good -- but there isn't any mystery about what the bad and the good happen to be. He's exactly who he appears to be.

bthun said...

"If you get Gingrich, you get a brilliant mind and a hot temper. He doesn't really care what anyone else thinks about anything."

That's a right concise description of Newt. He certainly has an abundance of that quality that Fred D. Thompson was said to be lacking last time around... That fire in the belly quality. Newt's temperament tilts more towards that of a professional rassler.

As you noted over at VC Grim, the primary nomination and general election campaigning process is theater. In spite of the handlers, the coaching, the grooming, the angling, and PC speak undertaken in an attempt to homogenize the candidates for the broadest palate, Newt will, as often as not, color outside the lines. Consequences be damned or calculations targeted towards the prevailing mood of the electorate? You make the call.

Meanwhile, in spite of his record, The ∅ will attempt to posture and preen towards the center in an effort to win reelection. Alas, for some of the folks out in the cheap seats, the record of deeds speak louder than focus group tested words, at least IMHO.

In any case, I agree with a Mitt man statement made during this past GOP debate, and I paraphrase, any one of the four men on the stage would be a huge improvement over The ∅*.

I now return to my position of observing the 11th commandment.

* Having ousted the current Dem majority in the Senate and holding the GOP majority in the House.

Anonymous said...

Nobody in their right mind is going to publish a timely opposition research book: it would backfire. They contain speculation and hints of methods of attack that might not prove out. The purpose of the book is to provide potential tools for opposition, and to describe the next steps, if, if, if.

The content of such a book, prematurely released and in the hands of a skilled adult, could be defeat.

About Gingrich: Unlike Clinton and Bush, both of whom grew in office, it appears to me that Gingrich had to grow OUT of office. He's been busy for the last few years.

Gingrich would have to overcome the assessment of many people that he is intemperate. My question to you is, despite your relatively close look at him, are you describing him, or the opposition's characterization of him?

The reason I ask this, is because I went looking for a video of Newt talking on the subject of education, one that I had encountered several years ago, and which was the beginning of a changed impression of him.

What I found, via Google, was that the primary source was VERY hard to find. What was easy to find was gross and hostile mischaracterizations of what he said. I do research for a living. I can see how this is done. All it takes is lots and lots of commentary that uses a concerted shift in the key words.

And I know an elementary school principal/community activist who knows, KNOWS, I tell you, that Newt is out to destroy public education.

He's out to save our educational system, and he's willing to make common cause with anybody who shares that desire. He's willing to consider any idea, to take the problem and knock it on its side to get a solution.

After doing some more research on Newt Gingrich and education, I realized that this pudgy white guy is what our country meant to elect the last time around. Barack Obama ran on the platform that he would act like Newt Gingrich has done since he got out of office. Too bad he couldn't deliver. He'd be a hero, and coasting toward easy re-election, now.


Cass said...

... if you pick Gingrich you take the bad with the good -- but there isn't any mystery about what the bad and the good happen to be. He's exactly who he appears to be.

I'll bet his ex wives thought that too :p

Texan99 said...

Well, he has faults, but I'll vote for him. I think there are many influences in his social, moral, and intellectual life tending to draw him back to first principles when goes off on one of his tears. I don't feel that way about Obama, whose background and associates are all encouraging him in his most ignorant and dangerous proclivities.

Cass said...

That's fairly reasoned, T99.

I honestly do not know if I can vote for Gingrich in good conscience. I have never said that of a GOP candidate, so I can't tell you how much it bothers me to say that.

My problems with Gingrich are not so much with his alleged lack of discipline or tact as they are with his ethics. When I look at both his public and private life, I see too many red flags.

I could look past one or two but in the aggregate they're overwhelming. I suspect that if he emerges as the front runner, his past is going to sink him.

bthun said...

"I suspect that if he emerges as the front runner, his past is going to sink him."

*double-checks fine print/minutia at the bottom of the Eleventh Commandment then Nods in agreement while knowing deep down that the Hun would vote for Freddy Kruger if it would help oust The ∅*

Cass said...


Therein lies my disquiet, Bthun. I have not made up my mind and hopefully the decision will be overcome by events. But in the mean time I am researching, and trying to make up my mind.

bthun said...

I'm mostly in the same boat, but I'm fully prepared to don the nose-plugs and enter the voting booth. As is said, take one for the team. =;^}

I am just as concerned, OK, maybe a bit more concerned with ousting the Dem's from their majority in the US Senate while maintaining control of the US House.

Paraphrase alert: The nation has a long way to go and a short time to get there.