Every now and again, I wonder if my former boss (I once interned for then-Congressman Newt Gingrich before he became Speaker of the House) entered the 2012 presidential contest not so much because he thought he could win but because he craved the limelight — and saw his candidacy as a chance to get some media attention once again (and maybe sell a few books).
Perhaps that is why he chose to run a no-holds-barred campaign, berating the “moderators” at the debates for their leading and “gotcha” questions. And perhaps why he initially refrained from attacking his fellow Republicans. He didn’t want to hurt the man who would eventually face the Democratic incumbent.
When, however, in the wake of the collapse of Herman Cain’s campaign in the closing weeks of 2011, he surged in the polls, the Pennsylvania native thought he could actually win the contest he had previously seen as something akin to a publicity stunt, he changed his goals. He thought he could win. And once he had that sense, it hasn’t been easy for him to see what briefly appeared as a race tilting his way to one where he increasingly seems to be an also-ran. He found it hard to come down from that high.
No wonder he’s been playing the victim card of late, whining about attacks on him, as if negative campaigning is unfair. But, there is “nothing wrong or dishonorable negative campaigning“, Ed Morrissey reminds us as long as it “is being done honestly”:
Gingrich chose to eschew that strategy and now wants to claim some kind of victimization because the rest of the field chose not to follow in his footsteps. On top of that, Gingrich has descended to name-calling, which looks more like a dog-in-the-manger ploy than a way to gather support in the few short hours before Iowa voters trudge to precincts tonight. A confident candidate wouldn’t have sunk to the level of this conversation the morning of a caucus.
Perhaps Newt didn’t anticipate the negative attacks when he began his campaign because he hadn’t anticipated becoming frontrunner (albeit briefly). Now that it’s coming — and having an impact — he hasn’t developed a sensible means of response.
And that response is hurting him as much as (if not more than) the negative ads themselves.