I didn’t just turn off Newt Gingrich’s odd speech last night in order to meet my date for dinner; I also turned it off because he reminded me of an angry leftist, eager to criticize a conservative or Republican not on the merits of his opposition but in order to vent his spleen. When I returned from dinner, I learned I wasn’t the only one who thought the former Speaker behaved in a rather juvenile manner.
Over at the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein headlined his post on the Nevada returns, Romney wins Nevada, Newt throws a tantrum, observing that after his introductory remarks,
The rest of the press conference was very process oriented and filled with bitter attacks on Romney, from his negative campaigning to his statements on the poor. Gingrich even remarked that it was “weird” that Romney fired his debate coach who had helped him through the two Florida debates in which most people thought he did well. Gingrich can talk all he wants about running an unconventional campaign, but at the end of the day, money and delegates are what matter and the prospects don’t look great for either right now.
If the former Speaker showed some grace in defeat, he might be better able to rally those Republicans not entirely satisfied with the frontrunner.
Current returns show Romney winning by about 17 points — but with only 5.8% of Clark County in. And if the results from the state’s largest county correspond with the entrance poll, those numbers should boost the candidate’s margin; Michael Barone reports that “Romney leads in Clark County with 63% of the vote, to 17% for Paul and 14% for Gingrich.” (“Clark County includes Las Vegas and 70% of Nevada’s population; it is more Democratic than the rest of the state and cast just 55% of the votes here.“)*
And Romney won even after, as Cameron Joseph put it in the Hill a “rough week in which the former governor of Massachusetts took some lumps for a verbal stumble where said he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”
If the entrance polls are any indication, Romney could end up beating Newt by a greater than 2-to-1 margin. No wonder Newt was bitter tonight. He didn’t do himself any favors by the way he responded to the results. He won’t help advance the conservative ideas he often articulates so eloquently by reacting to election returns in a manner reminiscent of one of his very unhappy former colleagues.
He should keep his focus on his ideas instead of making increasingly manifest how much he resents Mitt Romney.
*Oh, Newt may call Nevada a “Mormon state,” but, as Barone noted, “Non-Mormons seem to have preferred Romney over Gingrich by 42%-26%, a margin similar to that in Florida, with 23% for Paul, much more than he received in Florida.” Romney won non-Mormons in Nevada by a greater plurality that Newt won overall in South Carolina.
And one more thing, Romney devoted his victory speech to attacking President Obama, Newt to attacking a Republican presidential candidate. Now, do you understand why I’m leaning toward the former Massachusetts governor and not my former boss?
The most interesting part of the news conferences was when a reporter asked Gingirch fairly early on about Romney being “in your head”. Gingrich gave a weak sarcastic comeback that sounded more peevish than witty, claimed that Romney wasn’t in his head, then spent almost the entire remaining news conference showing that Romney is very much in his head. Newt’s only real bright spot was in his comments about the Obamacare/Catholic flap, but Romney had already covered that in his victory speech, so it sounded me-too-ish. Someone needs to tell Newt that there’s no crying in baseball.
Frankly, the two performances last night went a long ways towards convincing me that Romney would do much better running against Obama than Gingrich would. It’s clear Romney has a thicker skin and a better sense of going after the jugular. And for all his tone-deaf gaffes — and I hope he gets the rest out of the way sooner rather than later — Romney has much less personal baggage.
UPDATE: Contending that Newt’s “post–Nevada caucus performance”, as he dubs it “will hurt [the candidate] more than anything yet in the campaign”, Victor Davis Hanson opines that
. . . whether he knows it or not, Gingrich is becoming a caricature of petulance: no concession in Nevada, no call to Romney, no awareness that his inability to raise money at levels of a political rival or to match a competing campaign organization is not necessarily unfair. That’s politics, and Gingrich knows it. I don’t understand why he thinks now losing to Romney in 2012 is solely due to Romney’s innate deviousness in a way McCain beating Romney in 2008 was not — given that Romney was about the same in both 2008 and 2012. Gingrich seems oblivious to the fact that McCain’s style and history gave him advantages over Romney’s money and hardball in ways Gingrich’s own proven liabilities apparently do not.
Read the whole thing!