Ed Driscoll

A Tale of Two GOP Presidential Candidates

In 2007, when Democrat presidential candidates balked at appearing on Fox News, Roger Ailes replied, “The candidates that can’t face Fox, can’t face Al Qaeda.” But even Mitt Romney can’t face Fox, as William A. Jacobson notes today:

As bad as the original interview was, Romney’s reaction simply confirms the perception that Romney will have trouble in a general election.  If he can’t handle totally legitimate questions from Baier, and his team will not let him appear before the Center Seat panel, then how will he hold up when the media and Team Obama gang up on him?

In contrast, here’s Newt Gingrich authoritatively brushing aside a gotcha question by CBS’s Scott Pelley, a thoroughly reactionary establishment leftist, who when asked about providing balanced coverage of global warming and its skeptics replied, “If I do an interview with Elie Wiesel, am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?”  Click here for the screen cap of Pelley’s unbelievably smug grin — moments before Newt defenestrates him:

In November of 2008, after the McCain campaign melted down over how unfair their media coverage was in late September, Kevin Williamson of National Review wrote:

Every time I hear a Republican candidate or office-holder talking about media bias in the fall, I assume that the election is over and the Republican has lost. It’s not that the complaints don’t have merit–do they ever–it’s just that the media-bias talk tends to come up right about the time things are going undeniably south for a campaign. So maybe it’s best to front-load the discussion for next time around. Candidates who are talking about media bias in October are losing elections.

As I replied on my blog back then:

And when they’re talking about it in late September, they’re really toast, as Robert Stacy McCain wrote in his October 3rd pre-postmortem:

I didn’t comment on it at the time, but I was shocked when Steve Schmidt lashed out at the New York Times on Sept. 22. Every word Schmidt said about the NYT being in the tank for Obama was true. But you don’t do that. Ever. Not in a campaign you have any hope of winning. It is one thing to criticize specific errors by specific reporters, but for a presidential campaign manager to call into question the fundamental integrity of a newspaper that more or less dictates news coverage at the three major broadcast networks? Uh uh. No way. Leave that work to surrogates. Then Wednesday, in an interview with the Associated Press, McCain himself got all hostile with the reporter. That is tantamount to an admission of defeat.

But one of McCain’s many weaknesses as a GOP candidate is that he counted on the media’s support–or at least was praising the media–and in particular, the New York Times as late as January of 2008 in the Republican debate in Florida. This left him absolutely unable to criticize the media in any form–which is why Schmidt’s meltdown in late September sounded so much like whining, even though, as Robert McCain wrote back then, “Every word Schmidt said about the NYT being in the tank for Obama was true.”

Hopefully the next GOP candidate will lay sufficient upfront groundwork so that his supporters (and not just the base) will know that the media attacks are coming–and that the GOP isn’t competing merely against another party, they’re also competing against the bulk of the legacy media, where most voters go to receive whatever scraps of information they’ll get to justify their voting decisions.

As I wrote back then, it wouldn’t hurt to remind people of the media’s excesses and kneejerk support for Obama in this election, as many will have forgotten it. Laying this groundwork early in the campaign would also allow the candidate to have lots of “See, I told you so” moments when the drive-by media hits start flying.

Which brings us to Ace of Spades late last night. “Newt Gingrich Accuses Obama of Left-Wing Alinskyite Tactics:”

Why is this smart? I think the media will cover this, and will try the “extremism” card and all that rot with Gingrich.

And what effect will this have? Well, the immediate effect is to electrify the Republican base, isn’t it? The media will be essentially running primary campaign ads for Gingrich if the media takes the bait. (And can they resist it?)

And if they think that this will poison the general electorate against Obama– not so much. The middle doesn’t really like Obama, and are not going to be making decisions not to vote for Gingrich based on him talking smack about someone they don’t particularly like (and may in fact feel they’ve been sold a bill of goods about). At worse, it’s an arrogant guy doing some smack talking about a really arrogant guy who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.

And what’s even more clever than this? Well, this is the time when the media turns to vetting Gingrich and trying to take him out. And they are doing so. And of course his rivals turn to him as well, as we saw with the Ron Paul ad.

I’m still worried about Newt in the general election, and having bad Goldwater in ’64 flashbacks. And Newt’s ability to embrace the (usually “liberal”) intellectual fad of the day, as Jim Geraghty witheringly highlights is troublesome to say the least. But this is a man who’s a masterful debater against his ideological enemies, and if “each President is chosen to be the opposite of his predecessor,” Newt is certainly, both physically and in terms of actual experience inside the Beltway, the polar opposite of Mr. Obama.

Maybe, just maybe somebody in the GOP came to play in 2012, either as the main nominee or as veep.

(Or it’ll be Goldwater ’64 redux.)

Update: First, an exit question: In 2003 and early 2004, on the left, Howard Dean was The Man, until suddenly, he wasn’t. Was Mitt Romney’s outburst over being grilled on Fox his Dean Scream moment?

Second, an exit quote: “Newt Gingrich may be the ‘Flavor of the Month,’ but if so, This is the month to be Flavor of the Month in.”