Newt Gingrich and Amazing Grace

For quite a few days now, I’ve joined everybody else in scratching my head, trying to figure out Newt’s appeal.  Although I’ve always had a soft spot for him myself, I’ve been almost as baffled as Ann Coulter about how a man whose life, both personal and political, has proven so, shall we say, uneven, could have possibly have appealled to so many tea partiers and social conservatives alike.  Romney’s right about Newt, of course.  Newt has spent four decades in Washington.  Yet when Newt says “I’m one of you,” people believe him.  How can this be?

In “The Transom” this morning, Ben Domenech quotes Aaron Gardner, providing a big part of the answer:

From @Aaron_RS: “I think much of Newt’s appeal is that he is on a journey of redemption, and the people want to believe they are as well. His conversion, and the broader idea of Americans being able to bounce back. His story fits the mood. You add the redemption theme to Newt being able to appear confident and communicate ideas to people, and you have a result like SC. Mitt, on the other hand, has no redemption story because to repudiate any past position is to admit he was wrong. In the end, Newt is more optimistic while being honest and that goes a long way in building trust. Mitt isn’t getting that benefit.”

Romney, in other words, is the diligent older brother, the one who has behaved himself all his life and just can’t understand why he doesn’t get more credit. 

Newt?  Newt’s the prodigal son–a sinner like everyone else.

  1. mesquito

     You’re overthinking.  As Rush Limbaugh said, Newt is a vessel and the minute he forgets that he’ll crash.

  2. Gaby Charing

    A view from across the Pond. I know Newt Gingrich only from the clip of him in discussion with Christopher Hitchens, which was posted when Hitchens died. I knew who he was, but couldn’t have picked him out in a photo. I was struck by the following: intelligent, educated, unusually articulate, and talking excellent sense (more so than Hitchens), boyish good looks, and charm (it reminded me of the Clinton charm – beware!).

    I see him as a seducer, deeply unreliable as seducers tend to be, and a very dangerous choice for your party. However, Romney is reptilian, and Gingrich will certainly keep us entertained!

  3. The Mugwump

    Only God and His angels know if Newt has redeemed himself.  I’m just a man and far less forgiving.  Maybe he doesn’t chase skirts anymore, but Newt seems to be the same arrogant, cantankerous, egocentric, career politician he always has been.  Newt will have to show me a bit of humility before I can take his conversion seriously.  I won’t hold my breath.  

  4. Duane Oyen

    Newt is rising because Romney is socially flawed as a pop figure.

    This simply is not true: “Newt is more optimistic while being honest”.

    Optimistic, perhaps.  Honest?   Are you kidding me?  Do you believe that there is one controversial aspect of his life, prior positions, or career regarding which he is really honest?  Me neither.

    My dream date is still this guy, Jeb Clinton.

  5. Cunctator

    I think not.  I think the simple answer is that Obama has been treated with kid gloves by the media and by former political opponents (yes, I’m looking at you Sen McCain),and some people derive pleasure and a sense of relief from seeing someone (Newt) actually speaking out and saying what they think in these debates. 

    These people project those particular feelings of frustration, and want someone to take this type of racous talk to Obama; but in the end Obama is too smart to get involved in these kind of knock down and drag out debates.  Losing strategy, sadly.

  6. Pseudodionysius

     However, Romney is reptilian, and Gingrich will certainly keep us entertained!

    That’s the Reptilian versus the Amphibian then, battling in Florida, an appropriate state.

  7. Franco

    Newt Gingrich doesn’t fit as nicely into the Tea Party dream candidate department, but he’ll do. One thing pundits often miss when speculating about candidates and voters, is that even if a candidate has some history of not being a “true conservative” or has in the past voted for questionable legislation that conflicts with current ideals of the movement, voters would like to hear their candidate at least articulate their present ideals and legislative goals. A candidate such as Newt Gingrich draws support and makes enemies.  

    They understand that if a candidate wins  by advancing certain issues, thereby making friends and enemies, he will more likely continue with his friends supporting those issues. And he will be able to accomplish these stated goals. It’s called a mandate. To conservatives who actually want to achieve something out of their victory, this is very important. Even if the politician is cynical, why would he abandon his friends’ issues and side with his enemies, if those issues brought him to electoral victory?

  8. Franco

    Why? Here’s another take He’s not exactly a Washington outsider, but Washington insiders seem to abhor him. He may just be the best thing that’s come along for the Tea Party folks yet. He’s been vetted. He has political experience. He’s not going to be ambushed, he’s certainly not going to become blindsided or tongue-tied, and he will fight for them.

    Even if he triangulates at some point in office, at least he will be tied to the conservative leg of the triangle.

  9. Misthiocracy

    I think it helps that Newt doesn’t go on and on about his faith and his conversion, like Dubya did.

    Dubya brought it up so much that it sometimes, arguably, felt a little phony, like a set of campaign talking points.

    In Newt’s case, he keeps it much more private. Of course, he also doesn’t hide it, or keep it a secret, which would be just as bad. 

  10. Misthiocracy
    Gaby Charing: However, Romney is reptilian…

    David Icke, is that you?  ;-)

  11. David Williamson
    mesquito:  You’re overthinking.  As Rush Limbaugh said, Newt is a vessel and the minute he forgets that he’ll crash. 

    At the risk of sounding like a dittohead, what Rush said is that Newt is expressing conservatism – it is this, rather than Newt personally, that is popular.

    Another way of saying this is that Newt is representing Tea Party values, is on the (metaphorical) attack against Democrats, and doing it eloquently, rather than being a Rino squish.

    As Rush also said, the minute Newt stops espousing conservatism, he will be toast. I suspect he (Newt) is smart enough to know this – let’s see how long he can keep it up.

    I didn’t see the most recent debate, where Newt is said to have done badly by not getting any standing ovations, but Jay Nordingler, whose opinion I respect, remains impressed by Newt – or, again, his message.

    So, yeah, it’s not really that puzzling.

  12. BThompson

    The idea that Newt is honest is pretty hilarious. Reminds me of something I saw recently.


  13. SteveS

    Newt is a politician, which essentially causes him to make arguments that he gauges are popular, pander to those who support him and look for the most advantageous populist wave and ride it for all it’s worth.

    Newt is doing what he he does best, which is be the axis where all things connect. He is like the thoroughbred who has found his stride, hears the roar of the crowd and can see the home stretch. What remains is whether he will “spit the bit” before reaching the finish line.

    Romney on the other hand is used to winning the day, if you will, with data (which he says he loves) and a succinct bottom line argument which doesn’t take charisma or passion only competance. He has never needed to be witty or have a endearing anecdote in the board room I’m sure. He is forcing himself to be other than what he is and it appears phony and insincere.

    Romney is beginning to look like the one time favorite Sham in the famous Belmont Stakes race. He only hopes that Newt doesn’t come on like Secretariat.

  14. tabula rasa

    The redemptive process, at least in my experience, is accompanied by a deep sense of humility.  Yet what I see in Newt comes close to hubris.  The pieces of that narrative don’t fit together, at least for me.

    As I’ve posted before here, Newt carries within him the seeds of his own self-destruction (e.g., attacking Paul Ryan).  They stem from his hubristic nature.  He reminds me of Bertie Wooster’s generic description of aunts:  “Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.”  [To Gingrich supporters: this is a metaphor]

  15. flownover

    It’s always instructive to throw the “friends” question out. Reagan was so effective because he had many very good friends who were very smart and great at their jobs. They flocked to work in his administration. Who in their right mind would want to work for Ron Paul ? Now considering that, who would you think Newt would reach out to ? 

  16. Aaron Miller

    We need big changes. That requires a leader who is bold and aggressive. Gingrich is a gamble, but gambling is necessary when the stakes are high and time is scarce.

    To use a football analogy, Romney is the running game and Gingrich is the passing game. Only a fool coach focuses on running the ball when down by multiple touchdowns with only a couple minutes left on the clock.

    Romney doesn’t fit the circumstances. He’s not “flawed as a pop figure.” He’s a band-aid on a gaping wound.

  17. DrewInWisconsin
    BThompson: The idea that Newt is honest is pretty hilarious. Reminds me of something I saw recently. · 5 minutes ago

    That’s an “attack from the left,” as they say.

  18. Franco

    BThompson -

     You should see my facebook page. It has nasty, pithy stuff about every Republican in the race (I have some lefty friends). I have recently started unsubscribing to their posts. Facebook is not a place I choose to have political debates and at this point they just make me angry. 

    Facebook bumper-stickers are not an argument. Peace out. (as they say)

  19. Casey


    Newt’s appeal is more Reggie Jackson-ish.  There’s a sense that he’ll come through big in the big game.

    Mitt seems more like the player who will go 4-for-4 with 4 singles and no RBI….  Can’t blame him for losing but did nothing to help get the win either.

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In