Sorry I've been away. I've been trying to keep my NLT commenting free from intra-Republican primary fighting and instead focus on policy, but the Republican primary stuff has been monopolizing my political thinking lately. Anyway, the distinction only exists in my head so here are some thoughts on the passing scene:
1. Romney is getting testy
with questions about his flip-flops and his support of Romneycare. I can see why Romney is upset. Romney has been getting asked these questions for five years. If there isn't a statute of limitations on these issues, maybe there should be a statute of limitations on focusing
on these issues. Seriously, is there any likely Republican primary voter who doesn't know that Romney flip-flopped and supports a state-level health insurance purchase mandate for Massachusetts? this has to be especially frustrating since Romney is watching Gingrich surge even though Gingrich has flip-flopped on a FEDERAL health insurance mandate (hey isn't that unconstitutional?) and cap-and-trade. Gingrich has been out of electoral politics for thirteen years. Large swaths of the electorate haven't been paying much attention to what Gingrich has been saying and doing during this time. How come Gingrich's flip-flops aren't the story?
2. Well I can't feel too bad for Romney. Romney's argument that Romneycare was right for Massachusetts but Obama's national Romneycare was wrong for America (as a matter of policy rather than constitutionality) doesn't really work. He has never really explained why he thinks a policy regime of guaranteed issue, community rating, health insurance coverage mandates and a health insurance purchase mandate (all policy similarities between Romneycare and Obamacare) is a good one for a state. Romney doesn't even admit all the similarities. He is just trying to wait out public attention. Good on Bret Baier and FOX News for continuing to dig.
3. The good news for Romney is that life is about to get a lot more fair. Gingrich's flip-flops are real, significant, and recent (they've come after his career as Speaker.) Gingrich also has the habit of telling spectacular and easily verifiable lies. He said
that Freddie Mac paid him to $300,000 in 2006 to give advice as a "historian" and that he told them that their business model was fatally flawed. Well it turns out that Gingrich was extravagantly praising
the Freddie Mac business model in 2007 and was warning Congress about regulations that might change how Freddie Mac operated. During last night's Huckabee candidate forum, Gingrich asserted that he had never been in favor of cap-and-trade. Liar.
Gingrich's rise has been fueled by his debate performances, but those performances have had a dynamic that won't exist from now on. The other candidates allowed Gingrich to tell of the debate questioners and otherwise perform the Newt Gingrich genius/statesman act with little criticism and the resulting pressure. Gingrich has the target on his back now.
Gingrich is in a tough position. A large fraction of the electorate has a vague or nonexistent idea of how conservative Gingrich hasn't been over the years. Many of those who do know about Gingrich's flip-flops and sleazy (political) dealings console themselves that Gingrich is an invincible debater and, even if Gingrich is dirty, we need a dirty guy to beat Obama and the Chicago machine. All of that is over now. The other candidates aren't going to give Gingrich the space to deflect questions with his "how dare you irresponsible Washington journalists cheapen this process by asking us about our records and policies" act. It is in the interests of all the other candidates (maybe other than Huntsman) to hit Gingrich constantly and from every direction. As Ron Paul showed,
there are a lot of ways to hit Gingrich. This will of course increase public knowledge about Gingrich's flip-flops and weaken his support from those who want a more authentically conservative alternative to Romney. I also suspect Gingrich won't end up looking that good under sustained attack. Gingrich under pressure isn't a very pretty sight.
I don't see Gingrich holding on to his current level of support until the January 3 Iowa Caucuses. Where that support goes is anybody's guess.
h/t to Peter Schramm and John Moser for a couple of the links.