A long race would keep former Speaker Newt Gingrich under the microscope, giving Republican primary voters more time to focus on his record and giving Gingrich more opportunity to self-destruct, Stuart Rothenberg writes.
But television, as one strategist pointed out to me recently, is less important in a presidential race than in a Senate or House race. The presidential race will get plenty of “earned media,” so voters will have the information they need to make decisions without relying on paid TV ads.
The calendar presents some problems but also a few opportunities for Romney.
All five of the first primaries (New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Arizona and Michigan) are likely to suffer a 50 percent penalty because they violated “windows” established by the Republican Party and amended by the Republican National Committee in August 2010. That doesn’t mean they will lose importance, however.
Obviously, Romney must win an early test, and the most likely one — indeed, the only one — is New Hampshire.
The rules require primaries scheduled for March (currently there are 11 of them, though Texas could end up moving back) to use proportional representation. That could make it difficult for one candidate to lock up the nomination early.
A long race could be key for Romney, but not because of his organization or money. Rather, a long race would keep Gingrich under the microscope, giving Republican primary voters more time to focus on his record and giving Gingrich more opportunity to self-destruct.
But there is no guarantee that Gingrich will implode, at least before the GOP’s Tampa convention, or that Romney can get enough support during the process to derail the former Speaker. And while the idea of a late entry into the race or a brokered convention doesn’t seem quite as outlandishly silly as it usually does, Iowa and New Hampshire are likely to separate the wheat from the chaff in the GOP race.
Part of Romney’s problem is that conservatives simply don’t trust him and so far are not giving him the benefit of the doubt. They are giving it to Gingrich, whose record seems no more conservative than Romney’s.
At a time when grass-roots Republicans yearn for a political outsider as a nominee, they are turning to Gingrich, a longtime Member of Congress and one-time House leader, rather than Romney, who has never held federal office or served in D.C.
One veteran Republican explains the odd situation by suggesting that conservatives seem to have more of a “cultural connection” with Gingrich than with Romney, much as they did with Ken Buck rather than Jane Norton (two equally conservative Republicans) in the 2010 Colorado Senate primary or Rand Paul rather than Trey Grayson in the 2010 Kentucky Senate primary.
Can Gingrich be stopped? We will see. The next month will offer many answers.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s recent criticism of the former Speaker could be a serious blow to Gingrich. Ryan is an icon to many conservatives, and his negative comments about Gingrich could constitute a new and potentially effective front against the former lawmaker.
Republicans who fear Gingrich — either because they find him untrustworthy and erratic or because they believe he damages his party’s prospects substantially in 2012 — must continue to slam the former Speaker, painting him as Obama’s best chance for winning a second term.
But ultimately, Gingrich’s prospects may well depend most on his own performance and on his ability to continue to appeal to conservatives across the country. In the past, Gingrich has proved to be his own worst enemy.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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