Newt’s Two Big Problems

by Daniel Foster

Two more illustrative bits from the Newt conference call. On the subject of cap and trade, Gingrich said he’d never supported it “in its current form.” “I’ve never changed on cap and trade,” he said. “The only thing I ever voted for was the Clean Air Act.”

But here’s Gingrich a few years ago:

Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, told Frontline in 2007 that “I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.” And he cut a TV ad with then-speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2008 calling for action on climate change. Since then, he’s campaigned against it.

That, I’d say, is going to be a problem.

Something else I didn’t mention in my writeup, but which Phil Klein does, is Gingrich’s perspective on the scale of the Medicare gaffe, which some commentators are already saying is fatal to his candidacy. By contrast, Gingrich likened his early struggles to Reagan’s in 1980:

But he argued that this controversy, which many have argued spells the end of his candidacy, will be fixed in a matter of days, and he likened his experiences to Ronald Reagan’s.

“Every once and awhile there’s going to be a problem, and you gotta spend three or four days fixing it,” he said. “If you go back and look at Ronald Reagan’s record, the opening week of the campaign in Sept. 1980, they didn’t have a very good week. And they had to go back and fix it. This happens occasionally. The trick is to relax, look at it, try to figure out what happened, and keep moving.”

These tidbits combined make clear two great challenges to Gingrich’s candidacy: 1) For all his rhetorical cunning and policy acumen, Gingrich the candidate has never had to deal with at 24-hour, blog-driven news cycle. This isn’t 1980. If you contradict yourself you are going to get caught, and right quick. 2) Newt’s “70/30″ approach of seeking broad consensus on policy may have worked in the 90s, when the “Third Way” was all the rage, but it sure as hell isn’t what the most fired up elements of the Republican primary electorate are looking for, and it would be disastrous to pursue in 2012.

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