In politics, as on the battlefield, the odds are so much tilted toward the attackers that those who would survive must advance in stealth. Precision guided munitions have long dominated combat. If they can see you, they can shoot you down. Only stealth aircraft has a decent chance at survival. Similarly, the anti-incumbent bias in our current politics assures that anyone who is under attack most likely will come crashing down.
That’s why the Republican nominating process has been so filled with brilliant candidacies that flame out and die. First it was the non-candidates who burst forth on the horizon only to fade in short order. Donald Trump, Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee each had their day. Then Michele Bachmann burst into the race, got herself on the cover of Time Magazine and faded (really through no fault of her own). Then it was Rick Perry’s turn. For several weeks in late August and early September, he seemed irresistible until we got to know better how shallow he is. Herman Cain followed and ended in disaster.
Now Newt Gingrich is going through his own baptism of fire. Under attack by $10 million of negative ads in Iowa and the national scorn of such influential players as Ann Coulter and the National Review, Gingrich is falling down as the first caucus approaches. Gallup reports more than a ten point fall from his heights nationally and the latest polls in Iowa have him running behind both Romney and Ron Paul.
Newt lacks the organization or money to handle the attacks. He doesn’t have Romney’s or Paul’s dedicated corps of supporters prepared to bring out the vote in Iowa since he never had the money or time to do real organizing there. He lacks the money to answer negative ads from virtually all of the other candidates.
What may save Newt? Ron Paul! As the polls show Paul doing better and better in Iowa, Republicans will get scared of the prospect of that screwball winning their nomination. More and more the genuine threat he poses to our national security, his desire to disarm America, his opposition to any defense in the war on terror, and his apparent acquiescence in an Iranian nuclear weapon will loom large as the Iowa vote approaches. Look for the other candidates to ease up on Newt and go after Paul, the target-du-jour.
Romney has it right. He lets others flame forth, momentarily hogging the media attention and waits for their demise. He never emerges as the clear front runner, so he never draws the flack. It hits everybody else but him.
Most likely, Romney will end up winning Iowa. Newt is too badly damaged and Ron Paul is about to be. Then he’ll win New Hampshire. Will the contest then be over? Not likely.
Voters haven’t recovered from their love affair with Newt or their dislike of Romneycare and of Mitt’s former pro-choice position. Look for a buyer’s remorse to set in as South Carolina approaches. Romney won’t be able to hide behind another candidate and the flack will come his way. Then, look for Gingrich to get back into the race. The motto: advance in stealth.