Palin v. Gingrich

Both Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich are prospective candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. A clash between them is inevitable. Both are populists who cater to the party’s grassroots, Fox-News-Channel-loving base. They are both fighting to become the populist outsider who challenges party insiders like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. And as this invisible primary unfolds, Palin has been much savvier than the former speaker of the House.

Consider endorsements. Last year, in the NY-23 special election, Palin went out on a line to support Doug Hoffman while Gingrich voiced support for party insider Dede Scozzafava. This week, in the Georgia Republican gubernatorial primary, Palin’s candidate Karen Handel came in first, and will face Gingrich’s chosen candidate, former congressman Nathan Deal, in an August 10 runoff. Handel is favored.

Then there’s the Ground Zero mosque controversy. Both figures have released statements against the mosque. But each statement uses different language, and emphasizes different points. Palin’s argument against the Cordoba Project is framed in terms of decency and respect for the murdered, and raises serious questions about the political agenda of the mosque’s developers. Gingrich’s, on the other hand, is explicitly sectarian — he says no mosque should be built near Ground Zero until Saudi Arabia allows Christian churches on its land. (Although, if you accept his analogy, and I don’t, why stop at Ground Zero?)

No matter what you think about the Ground Zero mosque — I’m not sure what to think myself — it is easy to distinguish between the two arguments. Palin’s uses language aimed at the Reagan Democrats and independents who remain the key to American politics. Despite what her enemies say, it is not hate speech. Gingrich’s language is intemperate. His reasoning is likely to turn off just as many people as it turns on. Palin wins once again.

  1. Mel Foil

    Re: the Ground Zero mosque

    I’ll give a hypothetical along the same lines. In 1980, John Lennon was assassinated in front of the Dakota, an apartment building in New York City, where he lived with his wife Yoko, and son–famous building, historic landmark. The murderer’s name was Mark David Chapman. The Dakota is a Co-op, but let’s say there’s a fire, everybody gets out safely, but (God forbid) it burns to the ground. Let’s say the land is sold to a Mr. Jones, and he puts up a replica apartment building of the same size. And Mr. Jones wants to name the building “the Chapman,” after his son, Chapman Jones. It might rub a lot of people the wrong way, but is there anything you can do about it in a legal sense? Probably not. As with the mosque, preventing what a lot of people think is very distasteful has to be done by public pressure.

  2. The Mugwump

    The name Cordoba House was chosen deliberately as a signal to radical Muslims that ground zero is conquered territory. The name is an allusion to Andalusia and the conquest of Spain. Such propaganda victories can only have the affect of encouraging more terrorism.

  3. Scott R

    Leaving aside the mosque issue for a moment, isn’t this an unusual rivalry in that both individuals seem to genuinely like and respect each other? That’s the impression I get: no one was a more effective Palin defender during the campaign than Newt, and Palin has on occasion cited Newt-isms when arguing various issues.

    Roger Simon even suggests a Palin-Gingrich ticket as a possibility. Personally, my apprehensions about Palin–which are huge–would be mitigated somewhat by a man-behind-the-curtain like Newt on the ticket.

  4. Matthew Continetti
    C

    James, I agree. There’s always reason to be skeptical when Newt Gingrich says he’s contemplating a presidential run. For example, several years ago I wrote about the non-existent 2008 Gingrich campaign for The Weekly Standard. But I think Gingrich is a little more serious this time than last, because the political environment for Republicans seems much more promising (right now, anyway).

    And I agree with Scott that in some sense this rivalry is unusual. The two figures are a good match. But, as the cliché goes, there can be only one. And of course this rivalry in no way precludes the possibility of a Palin-Gingrich ticket. (Though I should also say that such a ticket would probably be much too right-wing for the country, and Palin would be better served, if she somehow wins the nomination, to choose Paul Ryan for veep.)

  5. Duane Oyen

    The Ground Zero mosque debate is interestingly related to this thread: http://ricochet.com/conversations/A-Reader-Takes-Issue-with-Me

    Since we are cleaning up America from all of these dastardly people, shouldn’t we be consistent with that position and throw Humza Ahmad out of Ricochet?

    Even if suspicious people with suspect motives legally buy property and build something we wish they would not construct, the one thing that has always inhered in the USA is the rule of law. If Cordoba House is built legally, without using government cash, eminent domain, etc., how can we argue that it cannot go up? Humza points out that the sources of funding need to be exposed as they are not at the present.

    At the same time, I want some Christian benefactor to sponsor a big church across the street.

  6. Jonathan Matthew Gilbert

    Speaking as a New Yorker with an awful lot of liberal friends, I’m increasingly curious as to who exactly really thinks the Mosque is a good idea…cause I haven’t met anyone here who does. Setting that aside, I adore the idea of a Palin-Gingrich ticket and I think his flirtation with running this time might only be a step towards that end. He doesn’t seem serious to me this time, and he’s frankly one of the only “old lions” left in American politics so the credibility he could lend her on the ticket would be enormous. As for being too right-wing for the rest of the country…the very left-wing current president is hovering around 44% approval, with nearly two years of further blunders left to go before the election. Even precluding the possibility of a 3-way race (increasingly likely, as I see it), a right-wing ticket may never face a better opportunity than what’s coming.

  7. Conor Friedersdorf
    C

    I think that Matt’s analysis is substantially correct, and characteristically astute, but I sure do wish that the intra-conservative conversation focused less on the political viability of two competing candidates, and more on the actual desirability of their being the Republican nominee.

    Whatever one thinks of Newt Gingrich, he is far more qualified to be president than Sarah Palin, and I say that as someone for whom Mr. Gingrich’s mosque remarks are basically disqualifying

    However astute Sarah Palin is at positioning herself for the nomination, it remains the fact that she is utterly unqualified to be president, and that her myriad flaws would be a frightening disaster for the country were she ever to ascend to the Oval Office. I know these horse race conversations can be interesting and useful in their own right, and I’m glad to have such smart analysis from Matt, but every thread on this subject shouldn’t lose sight of the fact we’re early in the process, and focusing on the substantive strengths and weaknesses of candidates can change political dynamics, which should be secondary.

  8. Scott R
    Jonathan Matthew Gilbert: … Setting that aside, I adore the idea of a Palin-Gingrich ticket and I think his flirtation with running this time might only be a step towards that end. ….

    I could definitely live with it after election day, but pre-election, I’d be a nervous wreck. With gaffe-prone Palin and loose-cannon Gingrich, I’d be hands-over-my-face-peaking-through-my-fingers from the convention through the first week of Nov.

    Also, Matt, if you’re still out there: Is Ryan really less right-wing than Gingrich? He has a moderate manner, yes, but his Road Map is off-the-charts right wing (in a good way), so much so that most Republicans are hesitant to embrace it.

  9. Scott R

    Also, Gingrich’s mosque argument is being misrepresented here. His argument is that it would be a deliberate affront–same as Palin–and his not-until-the-Saudis-allow-churches line was sort of a hell-freezes-over rhetorical flourish. His point is: Spare me the religious toleration whining, since NY already has over 100 mosques while the guardians of Islam forbid Christians from even setting foot in Mecca. His words are intense, a little ironic, maybe snarky–intemperate, as Matt says–but his argument is defensible. Gingrich being Gingrich.

  10. Aaron Miller

    Newt was among the Republicans who said that then-Senator Obama is not a radical. It would be the height of irony if he led the Republican response. Those words could be used against him in a campaign.

    Frankly, I like Newt for the same reason I don’t like him. He’s a politician, first and foremost. He’s savvy, but likes the game a bit too much.

  11. Duane Oyen

    Oh, goodness, Conor, here we go again. I think you have it exactly opposite. Palin would be a disaster as a ticket-heading candidate (the reason I don’t support her candidacy), and would do just fine in the Oval Office. She has been an executive before and knows how to do those jobs.

    Newt’s marital history, Your Grace? Like the old 1950′s TV show, “I Led Three Lives”, Newt has had three wives and cheated blatantly on two of them. Brilliant policy guy (except that his idea of “prevention” solving the health care coast issue is nonsense), but a self-indulgent egotistical moral idiot.

  12. Jerry Carroll

    Newt has been around forever and isn’t there some particularly nasty marital scandal in the background? True, the Democrats wouldn’t touch that with a barge pole because of their essential decency and insistence on playing the game fairly. So that’s not a factor at all.

  13. Matthew Continetti
    C

    Scott, to answer your question, there probably isn’t a whole lot of disagreement between Ryan and Gingrich on the issues. But manner counts for a lot — and I’m afraid that, for all his strengths, Gingrich comes off as snarky and polarizing, whereas Ryan comes off as youthful, optimistic, and wonky.

  14. HeartlandPatriot

    Sorry folks, but Newt has more baggage than Zsa Zsa Gabor on a world tour. His willingness to engage in offbeat and sometimes contradictory ideas would be an unending goldmine for the George Soros funded smear machine. Better to invest in a shaved ice franchise in Hades than Newt as a viable presidential candidate.

  15. Duane Oyen
    HeartlandPatriot: Better to invest in a shaved ice franchise in Hades than Newt as a viable presidential candidate. · Jul 23 at 9:59am

    For those Artisan snow cones!

  16. Jonathan Matthew Gilbert
    heathermc: Palin is gaffe prone” Nope. She came on the national scene, worked hard to get McCain elected, did what his handlers told her to do throughout the campaign, was insulted like no other political person in living memory, and kept smiling. Since the election, she has positioned herself wisely, quietly, and thoroughly; she is showing herself to be a very smart politician (as Alaskans already understood). She doesn’t have any of McCain’s handlers around her anymore. Which may be why she hasn’t made any mistakes, and terrifies the Dems to the point where they froth at the mouth.

    I agree completely, and I think most of the “gaffes” she made during the eight or so weeks she was in the race were minor compared to ones made by Joe Biden then or since; it’s the coverage that was skewed. Now that she’s taking her time to prepare and controlling her image personally…she’s doing a lot better, and has come a long way towards repairing the image non-political-junkies have of her. And their votes are going to be the most significant.

  17. heathermc

    Palin is gaffe prone” Nope. She came on the national scene, worked hard to get McCain elected, did what his handlers told her to do throughout the campaign, was insulted like no other political person in living memory, and kept smiling. Since the election, she has positioned herself wisely, quietly, and thoroughly; she is showing herself to be a very smart politician (as Alaskans already understood). She doesn’t have any of McCain’s handlers around her anymore. Which may be why she hasn’t made any mistakes, and terrifies the Dems to the point where they froth at the mouth.

    Not that I think she will run for President: I agree with Breitbart, by the way, that she can use her talents more wisely outside/ alongside the political world, because the culture is where it’s at.

  18. James Poulos
    C
    Matthew Continetti: Both Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich are prospective candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. A clash between them is inevitable.

    So, Matt, you really think Newt is serious about running this time? The best case I’ve heard made for Newt is that, by harkening back to the Spirit of ’94 (if not ’96), he gives Republicans a way to get away from the past 10 years without blundering forward into unknown territory. It’s just not apparent to me that Newt’s seriously ready to rumble. One thing is clear: he’d be a more formidable debating opponent for the President than some other prospective candidates.

    On the merits of the Ground Zero thing, I’ve got to agree that Newt’s formulation doesn’t work for me. A rhetorical style that augurs ill for a full-dress campaign?

  19. Jerry Carroll

    As we now know, a lot of the negative ink when Palin first hit the scene was orchestrated by the JournoList cell. It has a new name by the way, Cabalist.

  20. Scott R

    Jonathan and heathermc: Thanks for talking me out of that gaffe-prone phrase for Palin: she seemed to stuff all her gaffe’s into one interview. But I’m afraid you’ll never talk me out of the feeling that she’s gaffe-vulnerable.

    And I’m with Duane: once in there, Palin would be just fine, potentially damn good, but getting her in there would be (as Rob has put it) a high-wire act.