I am amazed at the furor out there this year; write that Newt’s shameful infidelity nevertheless probably does not ipso facto disqualify him, given what we’ve known in the past about some other presidents, and you get a flurry of pro-Romney invective; write that Newt blew the debate with his nonchalant arrogance, and you get a flurry of pro-Gingrich invective.
Leaving Santorum and Paul aside for a moment, this Newt–Mitt divide, I think, has trumped in its first few weeks the months-long Obama–Clinton fight. Conventional wisdom says this is the norm and that by June the winner will be endorsed by the loser, the party will unite, and Republicans will turn their attention to defeating the president.
But something about this particular spat seems nastier than, say, Romney–McCain or McCain–Bush (and remember, neither of those eventual nominees won the popular vote in the fall), or even Ford–Reagan and Reagan–Bush. Romney supporters are not just for Mitt, but furiously seem to loathe Gingrich; Gingrich’s team equally seems to hate Romney. This is especially odd given that on the issues, there is very little actual difference between the two candidates at all (which might, counterintuitively, explain the animus: personal characteristics, style, comportment, class, and background instead are the main differences between the candidates, hence the clumsily dubbed “Tea Party vs. Country Club” rivalry).
The question then arises whether, in the event Romney wins, Gingrich supporters will get out and support him, or, should Newt get the nomination, Romney people will fall into line. So many op-eds and TV ads are popping up so quickly that it almost seems impossible that any of these critics could ever endorse someone whom they have so thoroughly trashed in print or video — and whose line of argumentation will be drawn upon by Team Obama. At their worst, is not either Romney or Gingrich vastly preferable to Obama? I would think so.
Meanwhile, we are only vaguely aware that 2011 GDP growth did not even crack 2 percent, another puffed-up subsidized green company hit the dirt, and Obama climbs in the polls even as he should be having his worse quarter ever, given the debt, Keystone, recess appointments, and defense cuts. In military terms, strategy would be almost surreal: first, defeat and utterly humiliate a friendly rival, then expect to enlist what survives to form a new unified and harmonious army to defeat the heretofore untouched common enemy.