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Gingrich’s Temperament a Major Stumbling Block for GOP Voters

Republican voters want a candidate they can count on. And it's probably not Newt.

by
Neil Snyder

Bio

February 4, 2012 - 12:28 am
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Women in particular are concerned about Gingrich. Morris says that they “worry that his personal baggage may impair his ability to defeat Barack Obama in November” and that Romney is “the more electable of the two [candidates].” Clearly, Gingrich has a gender gap problem, and it’s probably caused by his unpredictable behavior. Whatever the cause may be, though, it would spell disaster in a general election.

Contrasting Romney and Gingrich, Yuval Levin, writing in the National Review, said,

Romney has a thoroughly executive disposition: He appears to have a very organized mind, intense discipline, a general sense of calm and restraint, and a systematic approach to everything he does.He expects change to result from a process, and so thinks about politics in terms of process. He exhibits each of these qualities to a fault. …

I think Gingrich has the intensity and the understanding of the importance of the moment that many Republican voters are looking for — he radiates a sense that the choice before us is utterly crucial and decisive…, and with regard to the coming election a lot of Republicans share that sense. I certainly do. He also of course has a record in high office that includes some impressive accomplishments during his speakership — welfare reform, the balanced budget — though also some very costly failures that seemed to flow from deficiencies in his temperament or his style of management.

On Thursday, just two days before the Nevada primary, Newt’s temperament and his campaign’s overall lack of discipline came into play again. The saga began on Wednesday, when real estate tycoon and reality TV star Donald Trump announced that he would be traveling to Nevada to make a “major announcement.” Immediately, Gingrich advisers spread the news that Trump was coming to Las Vegas to support their man, but he took the stage with Romney instead and endorsed him. With Trump at his side, Romney feigned surprise: “There are some things you just can’t imagine happening. This is one of them.” An obviously dejected Gingrich responded by saying that he hadn’t expected Trump’s endorsement and that he couldn’t “be bothered with the drama.”

Despite his strong showing in South Carolina, Gingrich hasn’t demonstrated the kind of discipline, enthusiasm, effort, and temperament that will be required to win the 2012 presidential election. According to Jack Cashill, an independent writer and producer and the executive editor of Ingram’s magazine,

Were he not running, the other candidates would likely have contented themselves with wrapping pre-packaged platitudes around debate questions, much as candidates of both parties have done in every election post-Reagan. … It also forced the survivors to hone their own speaking and debating skills.  As Mitt Romney accurately argued in his Florida acceptance speech, “A competitive primary does not divide us. It prepares us.”

Cashill is correct. Gingrich has forced the other candidates, particularly Mitt Romney, to elevate their performance to a higher level. That seems to be all that GOP voters want from Newt. They are winnowing the field, and it looks as though Romney is their choice. They see him as a safer bet than Gingrich in a head-to-head showdown with President Obama. Political leanings aside, that’s what the facts suggest.

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Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily. His latest book is titled "If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You’re Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You’re Not an Idiot".
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