Published on TheHill.com on December 6, 2011
But Gingrich is no Obama. He is far from a flash in the pan and about as much the opposite of an empty slogan or sound bite as you can get. He is an intensely creative man with key insights and a very keen, sharp mind. He knows the issues backward and forward and knows their history as well.
In a larger sense, we are blessed as a party to have a choice between two such highly qualified and able candidates as Newt and Mitt.
Why the enthusiasm for Gingrich?
His intellect and creativity are driving his candidacy. When Ron Paul cited our arrest and conviction of Timothy McVeigh as a success in the fight against terror and Newt came back at him and pointed out that McVeigh succeeded in killing more than 100 Americans, it was one of the great moments in political debate.
When Newt was asked what he would recommend to replace ObamaCare and he spoke of the fundamental importance of brain science and its potential to leapfrog our medical capabilities far ahead, it was a brilliant, creative moment.
And when Gingrich defined the ground rules on which he would insist for remaining in Afghanistan — hot pursuit, no sanctuaries and no aggressive attacking — he was saying what most of us are feeling.
Romney has certain key advantages. He runs better than Newt among women. The Fox News poll has Gingrich beating Mitt among men by 6 points and losing among women by 4. Romney is perceived as more electable by Republican voters. And he is cool and balanced in debate. And polling also shows that voters trust him more to solve our economic problems.
But there is a passion behind Gingrich, the white-hot intensity of a crusade. And that kind of support can go a long way toward compensating for a lack of money or organization — look at Huckabee in Iowa!
And Gingrich bests Romney in the competition for three key segments of the Republican electorate.
Social conservatives and evangelicals distrust Romney for his prior support of abortion — a legitimate beef. And, disgustingly, they are turned off by his religion.
Tea Party voters are fiercely opposed to ObamaCare and are very distrustful of Romney for passing his version of the program in Massachusetts. They see Romney as representative of Wall Street and big business. They embraced Herman Cain because he was the candidate of small business and now turn to Newt for similar reasons.
National-security conservatives know of Newt’s long and deep interest in protecting America’s strength and trust him to keep the military strong. They worry that support for defense spending is an acquired taste for Romney — but it is part of Newt’s essence.
And, finally, Newt has his timing just right. He didn’t surge in July as Bachmann did. He didn’t surge in August as Perry did. Nor in October as Cain did. He is surging in late November and early December just as Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses approach.
But, of course, the process won’t end in Iowa. It will only begin there. Newt is not about to knock Romney out. Mitt is too well-funded and has too solid a base of support from economic conservatives to go down so easily. This contest will go the distance and probably not be over until Super Tuesday in early March. Republican Party rules require proportional representation in delegate selection in the early going and then require winner-take-all primaries down the road. These rules assure that there will not be a quick nomination, but there will not be a long, drawn-out, draining battle all spring. And either man can win.