The Luck o’ Barack Obama

by Jay Nordlinger

Couple of months ago, Newt Gingrich was saying confidently that he would be the nominee. Then he “imploded,” as everyone said. Then he rocketed back up. Now he looks confident again — like a front-runner. I say this in my debate Impromptus today. I disagree with what I think is the consensus of the conservative blogosphere: I thought Mitt was weak, unnatural, last night; I thought Newt was fluid and convincing (so help me). He looked mature and statesmanlike (again, so help me).

South Carolina, it is true, liked the Newt who was rockin’ and rollin’ and fumin’.

I have begun — just begun — to accept the possibility that he will be the nominee. Before, I thought there was no chance. I thought his candidacy was almost lark-like, just an ego bath. But now I think: Uh-oh. I also think that, if Newt is the nominee, it will confirm that Barack Obama is pretty much the luckiest politician in all history.

Remember how he got to the Senate? We Republicans had this hotshot candidate, Jack Ryan, who had been a Goldman Sachs partner and then gone into the inner city to teach. A golden boy, Ryan was. He was going to be one of our stars in the Senate, and then quite possibly president.

But then: a sex scandal. The Illinois GOP imported a man from another state, Alan Keyes. We essentially had no nominee that year. We essentially forfeited the election. Obama didn’t have to break a sweat.

Then, for the first half of the 2008 Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton ran one of the most wrongheaded, wrong-footed campaigns in memory. By the time she righted herself, it was too late: Obama was the nominee. And then he had the gift of McCain and Palin in the fall. (Perhaps that is too hard on the Republican ticket. Put it this way: We could have run a better campaign.)

And now, after a disastrous first term, Obama will get Newt Gingrich, of all the Republicans under the sun, as his opponent? Newt Gingrich, who hasn’t even held office since leaving the House under a cloud almost 15 years ago? If Obama is that lucky, all I can say is, may his luck rub off on the United States in general.

I believe that Mitt Romney would make our best nominee: I think he’d be a strong general-election candidate and an excellent president. I think his experience, knowledge, and skills are especially suited to these (awful) times. I think the nomination of Gingrich would guarantee an Obama second term.

But I will now say what I always say, when I pop off in this fashion: I’ve been wrong before, so take these opinions with salt. I told everyone who would listen, from 1992 to 1996, that Clinton would be a one-term president, that his election in ’92 was merely an accident of the Perot candidacy (which garnered almost a fifth of the nation’s votes).

Oops, as our friend Rick Perry would say.

P.S. If Gingrich wins the nomination, will the liberals congratulate us on abandoning our uptightness and unhipness and choosing someone who has long gotten his freak on? Or will we simply be the hypocritical party, as well as the stupid party? (Then again, Newt may have truly reformed, been born again, if you’ll pardon the expression. I addressed this ticklish issue here.) 

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