The Romney/Gingrich feud has been a spectacle of the highest proportions to watch. It makes the drama of debates between then candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama look tame by comparison. As a Republican, what disappoints me most is the Clinton v. Obama debates did not seem as desperate as our Republican debates seem to be. That, in my view, is a result of the desperation of Newt Gingrich, a man who represents the insider of Washington politics and the natural establishment candidate, but who now maintains little to no support of the establishment.
There is a significant question for Republican primary voters: Do we want a nominee who will have an entertaining debate against President Obama? Or do we want a nominee who can possibly beat Obama?
Newt Gingrich is a very smart man. He is a man who understands political strategy in the kind of innate way you often times do not see in the candidates themselves, but instead in their political operatives (think making Karl Rove into a candidate). Here is the issue when you have that sort of mind as your nominee for President. Gingrich comes out with many brilliant ideas that play very well in a debate. For example, in the last debate in Jacksonville, Newt played up to Floridians in a way no other candidate did by making bold promises about local programs that frankly the President of the United States should not be involved in the first place. How can the President focus on the Everglades, while at the same time focusing on a new space program and fixing the local roads of Jacksonville, as well as ensuring South Carolina has fixed their local highway system. The issue with that is it brings a level of distraction that makes it near impossible for Ginrich to govern effectively.
By contrast, Romney looks like the man who should be President. He at times looks stiff and lacking in social grace. He certainly lacks the personal charisma of President George W. Bush or President Clinton. When you meet Clinton and tell him you are from a small town in Virginia, he mentions the three different occasions he has been there and what sandwich he ordered at your favorite deli. Romney lacks this ability to connect with voters. But, that is okay because right now, the issues our country faces are so grave that we do not need a man you want to have a beer with, but instead a president who recognizes the dangers of a lack of confidence. Confidence in our political system, confidence in our economy and our markets, confidence in our leaders. Romney’s business background, his successful rescue of the near fatal Salt Lake City Olympics, and his role as Governor of Massachusetts all point to his ability to restore confidence in our government, our economy, and our people.
I have been shocked by Gingrich’s vicious attacks on Romney’s business background. I cannot believe that Republicans like Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum think it is a good strategy to attack a man for being extremely successful in the private sector. You have a candidate in Romney who could be attacked on many levels, especially for his time as Governor of such a liberal state. Instead, Romney’s rivals have gone after him for creating one of the most respected private equity groups in the country, a company that helps small businesses become the largest in the world. What is even more shocking is that Romney failed so badly with his tax return issue that he lost ground and Gingrich won South Carolina in a state where one of the most contested battles between private enterprise and unions (Boeing) was taking place.
Let’s go back three years and look at the moment when Hillary Clinton lost the nomination. It was not after a primary, but during a debate over an issue related to the issuing of drivers licenses to illegal immigrants in the state of New York.
Mitt Romney will win the nomination because of one key moment in his latest debate in Jacksonville. While discussing the new space colony that Gingrich has suggested he would create, Romney quickly pointed out that the politics of empty promises, as Gingrich has made from state to state during this primary, are exactly what got us in the fiscal mess we find ourselves in today. (minute 8:35). That moment in the debate showed who was the adult for this time in our country.
Gingrich’s strategy will fail in the long run. In all of his thousands of ideas for America, he forgot one aspect that makes our country so great and frankly what makes our country exceptional: We celebrate success, especially private industry success, more then any country in the world.
Gingrich chose to attack Romney’s business success and it backfired. Romney is surging in Florida and that is because Gingrich lost his stride due to his desperation. The race is not over, and Florida is not the deciding state in this primary season, but the rest of the country should pay close attention to the results here. Newt Gingrich is a patriot, but now is the time to restore confidence, and no one on the debate stage right now is better for that position then Governor Mitt Romney.
Matthew Swift is the Co-Founder & Chairman of Concord 51, a political action committee for young professionals. www.concord51pac.com