Reflecting on the message coming out of the South Carolina primary, Thomas Sowell concludes that the stakes in this November's election merit a gamble.
Whichever candidate the Republican voters finally choose from this year's field, they are bound to have reservations, if not fears. Gingrich's worst could be worse than Romney's worst, both as a candidate and as a president. But Gingrich's best is much better than Romney's best.
Sometimes caution can be carried to the point where it is dangerous. When the Super Bowl is on the line, you don't go with the quarterback who is least likely to throw an interception. You go with the one most likely to throw a touchdown pass.
Regular readers of Ricochet will note that Thomas Sowell's perception of the risk associated with nominating Newt Gingrich resembles Paul Rahe's. But though these men's assessment of the situation is the same, their risk attitudes lead them to opposite conclusions. Running his own Gingrich risk/reward analysis just last month, Professor Rahe revealed himself to be far more risk averse than Dr. Sowell.
Gingrich is, as I said, formidable. He took a pathetic, me-too caucus lead by the hapless Robert Michel, and he turned it around. He cornered the President of the United States and for a time made him do his bidding. But, of course, he also crashed and burned – and we cannot ignore the possibility (some would say, likelihood) that he would do so again.
It could be, however, that the peculiar time in which we live requires audacity and a man of formidable intellect, unsurpassed self-confidence, and uneven, erratic temperament with an impressive record of uniting his party around a set of political principles and of leading it to victory in a tense, divisive national election....There really is something to think about here.
....In my judgment, none of them is even remotely close to being ideal, and no one currently in the race deserves our active support. In stating that -- if I had to decide today between the contenders Romney, Perry, and Gingrich, I would choose Romney -- I reserve the right to change my mind as I learn more about them...
Assuming you accept the characterization of Newt as formidable and brilliant, but uneven and possessing an erratic temperament, then whose conclusion—Dr. Sowell's or Dr. Rahe's—you're likely to favor comes down to your own risk attitude. The higher your propensity for risk in, say, your investment portfolio, the more likely you are to choose Gingrich as your candidate. But the more risk averse among us will err toward Romney, who's perceived to be the safer choice.
As for me—despite continuous findings that women are significantly more risk averse than men (which, come to think of it, could very well play a role in Gingrich's low favorability ratings among women)—I'm risk favorable, and I would tend to side with Thomas Sowell's conclusion.
But the collective appetite for risk among Republican primary voters? That's still anyone's guess.