Florida: Why Gingrich Lost Big and What's Next

For a supposedly smart guy, Newt Gingrich made a bonehead error in Florida that not only cost him that state but almost certainly any serious chance of the Republican nomination. And in so doing, he, almost idiotically, undercut the very thing that had made his candidacy successful in the first place.

After his solid victory in South Carolina, Gingrich did not continue the obvious strategy that got him there - running against Barack Obama by presenting himself to Republican voters as the great orator and thinker who could bring down the noxious incumbent, the man who rose above internecine intra-party squabbles for the greater good of his country.

Instead, he did the exact opposite. He spent the balance of his time in Florida running against Romney when he had already beaten the former governor in South Carolina. Talk about dumb. Newt let his personal antipathy overwhelm his good sense. He played defense about the picayune and the irrelevant when he should have played offense on the philosophical and substantial.

No wonder Gingrich's poll numbers dropped and dropped. What the Republican electorate cares about is Obama and who can beat him. Newt took his eye off the ball, wasted time and demeaned himself attacking Romney -- not the least of which was an extraordinarily vicious (not to mention untrue) accusation that Romney denied kosher food to Holocaust victims.

Just ten days ago I asked the question on this site: "Will Newt Gingrich Grow Up -- And Win?" Unfortunately, we got the answer sooner than we expected.

Now I know Gingrich fans (and I was one, if you read the column referenced above) are going to say that Romney played dirty first, so Newt had to. Nonsense. If that's what Gingrich thought, he was far less smart the we give him credit for. He might be a big thinker (at least for a politician), but he's also a thin-skinned sucker. He should have taken a breath and stayed completely on the high road, keeping whatever "vision thing" he had focused on the big rodeo in November.

If I, with no more political experience than running for junior high school president, knew something so apparent, surely Newt did. But he was unable to follow through on it, unable to keep his cool.