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The Inevitable Newt Gingrich Meltdown Begins

As James Joyner noted this morning, Newt Gingirch’s response to Mitt Romney’s inevitable victory in Nevada last night was a classic example of the Bad Newt that anyone who’s been following American politics since the mid-90s is already very familiar with:

Newt Gingrich vowed again to stay in the Republican presidential contest until the convention in August and said he will spend the next several months engaged in a bitter battle with Mitt Romney.

Speaking to the press after the Nevada caucuses Saturday, Mr. Gingrich repeatedly hammered Mr. Romney as a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-taxes candidate who has the backing of the Republican establishment.

“I am a candidate for president of the United States,” he said. “I will be a candidate for president of the United States. I will go to Tampa.”

Mr. Romney ignored Mr. Gingrich in his victory speech tonight. But Mr. Gingrich seemed insistent on making sure that his rival cannot simply look the other way.

He accused Mr. Romney of purposely leaking false information about Mr. Gingrich’s plans to drop out of the presidential race, calling that Mr. Romney’s “greatest fantasy” in the race.

And Mr. Gingrich said that recent meetings he held with donors were meant to map out a plan to continue getting his message out despite Mr. Romney’s superior fund-raising.

“The entire establishment will be against us,” he predicted. But he said that by appearing on national television and doing interviews in newspapers, he will spread his agenda.

Perhaps the most bizarre part of Gingrich’s appearance last night, which came after MSNBC had already ended its coverage for the night and switched back to Lockdown, was when he accused the Romney campaign of leaking rumors that he was planning on dropping out because of his disappointing finishes in Florida and Nevada. As I noted yesterday afternoon, though, that speculation started among some political reporters when Gingrich’s campaign itself announced that they would not be holding the traditional Election Night gathering of supporters and instead hold a late night press conference. It was only logical that reporters would ask why the campaign would do something like this. In retrospect, it seemed like a bad decision all around. Mitt Romney had one of the most energetic post-election rallies of the race so far. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum both got 20 minutes of nearly interrupted time on CNN and other cable networks for the stump speeches they gave in Minnesota and Colorado respectively. What did Newt Gingrich get? Well, NBC Campaign Embed reporter Alexandra Moe tweeted a picture of the room where Gingrich’s presser was taking place about ten minutes before it started. You make the call.

As Victor Davis Hanson noted early this morning, all Gingrich succeeded in doing was making a bad night worse:

But 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.

Gingrich should carefully play a tape of his post-Nevada caucus performance, and then he would quickly grasp that it was little more than a litany of excuses, whining, and accusations — characterized by stream-of-conscious confessionals and rambling repetitions. And, I think, will hurt him more than anything yet in the campaign.

Gingrich’s former colleague and sometime rival Dick Armey, who has mostly remained silent with regard to the Presidential race, broke his silence today and said that he thought it was pretty much over for the former Speaker:

Freedom Works chairman and former Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) blasted Newt Gingrich for his continued tough attacks on Mitt Romney saying Gingrich was carrying out a vendetta against the Republican frontrunner.

Armey said that Gingrich’s criticisms of Romney were not helpful for either the GOP in November or Gingrich’s own campaign during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “I feel bad for him. I think he’s digressed into a state of taking a second-rate campaign and turning it into a first-rate vendetta,” said Armey

“He’s putting himself out of the game, because he can’t get over his obsession over his own hurt feelings over the campaign in Iowa,” Armey added. “He needs to get beyond that and get to the nation’s people’s business if he expects to have any chance whatsoever.”

(…)

“I thought that last night was really said for him,” said Armey about Gingrich’s Saturday speech. “Quite frankly again so much of Newt’s whole life is overstated, he overstates the case in such a hyperbolic fashion, it just looks vindictive.”

I doubt that anyone is really surprised that things have taken this turn with Gingrich, least of all a guy like Armey who worked close to him for years and saw everything up close. After all, this is the same guy who got into a budget fight with Bill Clinton in 1995 partly because he was pissed off over being asked to sit in the back of Air Force One on the way back from Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral. Is anyone really all that surprised that he’s acting out like this now? Personally, I’ve been waiting for the Gingrich meltdown ever since he started rising in the polls back in December. Former Congressman Joe Scarbough but it best on his MSNBC show one morning that month when he said that Gingrich is one of those people who, as soon as they start making it to the top, inevitably find a way to destroy themselves. Now, with two major losses in a row and the prospective of two more chances to come in third place on Tuesday, combined with fundraising issues and Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum hitting him from both sides, it’s not at all surprised to see Gingrich returning to old form. Perhaps the only good news for Gingrich at this point is that here aren’t any debates scheduled until February 22nd because right now he’d be just as likely to embarrass himself even more as he would to redeem whatever is left of his campaign.

I’m not sure how much longer Gingrich will continue this charade. Probably has long as Shelly Adelson (or is that Mrs. Adelson) lets him. If it goes all the way to Texas on April 3rd, though, we’re in for yet more of this kind of nonsense, because it’s quite clear that this is how Gingrich reacts to losing. Thanks to an aggressive campaign in Iowa, and again in Florida, and last night’s victory in Nevada, Mitt Romney is now living rent free inside Newt Gingrich’s head, and it’s causing him to self-destruct right before our eyes. We’re already seeing signs in Colorado and Minnesota that conservatives are getting turned off by Newt, especially when compared to Rick Santorum who, whatever you might say about him at least comes across as a likeable human being. If Gingrich continues with this meltdown, then there might not be much left of him by the time the campaign gets to Texas.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    I think you don’t quite understand the meaning of the word “meltdown”. I also don’t quite understand how Mitt directly going after Newt in his speech after South Carolina was hunky dory, but Newt doing the same after Nevada is a sign he’s going all Captain Queeg.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  2. Jeremy says:

    I sure as heck hope so. The sooner he gets out, the better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    @MBunge:

    I also don’t quite understand how Mitt directly going after Newt in his speech after South Carolina was hunky dory, but Newt doing the same after Nevada is a sign he’s going all Captain Queeg.

    You have to remember that Doug is completely neutral in all this and is not now nor ever has been a supporter of the Republican party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  4. If you guys can’t see the difference between the two, then I’m not sure what to say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    If you guys can’t see the difference between the two, then I’m not sure what to say.

    Mitt is inevitable and Newt is a vanity candidate on a book tour?

    Seeing as I have seen neither (I don’t have a dog in this race) I really can’t see the difference. But then, I really don’t care either.(so this is just snark)

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  6. grumpy realist says:

    Fukushima Dai-San?

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  7. Chris Berez says:

    It seems like Gingrich’s viewpoint is that if he can’t have the nomination, no one can. He’ll continue doing everything he can to destroy Romney and the GOP field. And if his actions towards Romney help the Democrats in November, instead of reflecting on his own actions that might have contributed to that loss, Gingrich will simply, arrogantly say, “I told you he was unelectable. You should have gone with me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    You have to remember that Doug is completely neutral in all this and is not now nor ever has been a supporter of the Republican party.

    I’m so glad you reminded us of this, Joe, because otherwise I might have been tempted to think that Doug was just playing a part in the latest effort by the GOP establishment to shut Gingrich down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  9. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “If you guys can’t see the difference between the two, then I’m not sure what to say.”

    Here’s the only difference that I can see.

    When Newt proposes building a moon base, even though it’s only a future goal that would traditionally have been seen as an exciting and noble endeavor and would likely produce some significant technological advances…that’s evidence he’s a loon.

    When Romney proposes letting the U.S. auto industry disintegrate in the middle of the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression, causing millions of jobs to vanish and almost certainly making the crisis worse…that’s somehow evidence he’s NOT a loon.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  10. DRS says:

    I assume you mean “…nearly uninterupted time…”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    @MBunge:

    that’s somehow evidence he’s NOT a loon.

    No it’s evidence he’s one of the very serious people. I maybe wrong but I seem to vaguely remember Doug endorsing euthanasia for the US auto industry as the kindest solution to its problems. IMHO the Obama ads showing Romney proposing termination with extreme prejudice as the best way of dealing with the US auto industry are what is going to enable Obama to hold the midwest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  12. John Burgess says:

    @MBunge: When Gingrich, while attempting to gain the Republican nomination in 2012–what with the economy, unemployment, and all–talks of building a moon base, he is a loon. That’s not what people–including Republican people–want to be hearing from him. What they want is how he’s going to fix the economy, a few concrete ideas that are actually achievable within the lifespans of those listening.

    Letting at least one of the two US car manufacturers who can’t say no to unions fold may not be great for those who lose their jobs. It’s arguably better than throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at a problem–meanwhile screwing over the bond holders who might have gotten out whole-ish from a bankruptcy–without actually solving the problem. Who knows? Perhaps the unemployed would have gotten jobs at Ford? It might not be pretty, but it’s not ‘loony’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  13. Brummagem Joe says:

    @michael reynolds:

    might have been tempted to think that Doug was just playing a part in the latest effort by the GOP establishment to shut Gingrich down.

    Doug is a piece of work. He’s obviously a very bright guy and see’s many thing very clearly but is sometimes startlingly lacking in nuance and logic. Substantively there was no difference between the Gingrich and Romney post election remarks. Basically they were hatchet jobs on each other. What else is there to say. I don’t hold it against either it’s just what happened. Sure you can criticise Newt for choosing to continue to poop on Romney’s doorstep but why pretend they were fundamentally behaving differently?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. MBunge says:

    @John Burgess: “It might not be pretty, but it’s not ‘loony’.”

    You’re conveniently leaving out a big factor. Romney was proposing this in the middle of the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression. Saying the consequences of Romney’s proposal “might not be pretty” is damn near the textbook definition of loony, even more so since your response indicates that you either haven’t paid attention to or particularly care about the actual results of the auto bailout.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  15. Brummagem Joe says:

    @John Burgess:

    It’s arguably better than throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at a problem–meanwhile screwing over the bond holders who might have gotten out whole-ish from a bankruptcy–without actually solving the problem.

    So making the bondholders (many of whom bought the bonds speculatively) was more important than saving the US auto industry. And btw a majority of the bondholders actually voted in favor of the rescue packages for GM and Chrysler.

    Without solving the problem?

    Apart from fact that GM is now back as largest auto maker in the world and Chrysler is performing very well so far. Apart from your prejudices you obviously have precious little knowledge of chapter 11 proceedings or the impact on the mid western economy of the loss of conservatively a million jobs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  16. grumpy realist says:

    Although it would be….interesting…to watch the carnage Gingrich could wreck if he wanted to, I think we’ll find that the money spigot for Newt will shut down Any Day Now. After which the only reporters who will cover Newt’s ever-more-quixotic run are those of morbid curiosity, or who need a slot to fill.

    Result: Romney has managed to burnish himself up a bit and Newt has increased his “brand image.” We’ll see Newt again in the same way that we see Sarah Palin: talk-show hosts and book “authors” who will gradually segue into the position of Eminence Gris (although with Newt it should be “Gras”) and babble on What I Would Have Done Were I Running the US on every TV show they’re invited to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Actually Newt doesn’t need a lot of money to stay in the race til super Tuesday because the media want a horse race. He’s going to win some southern primaries by just being Newt no matter how much crap Romney pours on him. And indeed unless he chooses Newt as his VP the crap could hurt Romney in those states in November.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  18. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    What’s up with the overwhelming Instant-lanch in the Makers/Takers thread? Holy cow!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    @MBunge:

    Saying the consequences of Romney’s proposal “might not be pretty” is damn near the textbook definition of loony,

    It’s actually evidence of the not pretty (aka let them eat cake) attitude that is going to doom Romney in the midwest. For sheer ivory tower arrogance it’s hard to beat. Why do these Republicans hate the hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans who make their livings (managers and floor workers) from the auto industry.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  20. @MBunge:

    They can both be wrong, with the lunar still being the less rational, the more strange and emotional.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Ron Beasley says:

    @Chris Berez: I think that’s pretty close. Newt is now running to make sure Romney can’t win in November.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Oooh, the Insta-heads (or whatever Glenn’s minions call themselves) did not like my comment in the M/T thread at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Ann H says:

    Newt Gingrich is showing himself as a vindictive person. If he acts like this with a competitor, how would he behave in the White House – he talks about Romney firing people – Newt would be going a step further and saying “off with their heads” (like King Henry VIII in Merry Olde England) at anyone who looked at him cross eyed! :-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  24. Rick Almeida says:

    @Ann H:

    Um, did you not live through the 90s? Is this somehow news?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. maire says:

    I’m a 60 yr old that will support Newt thru to Tampa in August. TP and FreedomWorks supporter that sees Newt’s robust challenge to the so called inevitable Mitt as active democratic practice.With little to no money,Mitt’s individual campaign contributors are at only 7% compared to Newt’s 47% Gingrich is doing just fine. Newt appeals to all the people that will work to turn out the vote and are moved to send in $25 contributions.Right now the young are following Ron Paul but many college aged voters are starting to discover Newt’s platform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  26. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: Apparently if you cross libertarians when they’re in Ayn Rand mode, there’s hell to pay ;-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @A voice from another precinct: Indeed. The analogy to a motorcycle gang was spot on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Pug says:

    @John Burgess:

    The bondholders bit again.

    Most of the bondholders were hedge funds that bought bonds for pennies on the dollar hoping to get paid dollar-for-dollar. Sometimes there are things more important than making sure the vultures get paid off.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. grumpy realist says:

    @Brummagem Joe: Oh god, I really hope that Romney doesn’t do that–Newt as VP. [shudders]. The only one worse would be Santorum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. David M says:

    @Pug: Regardless of whether the bondholders were speculators, the bankruptcy was approved by at least 2 different courts, so there really isn’t any support for the idea the bondholders weren’t treated properly. They may not like how things ended up, but it was a bankruptcy, so how good was it going to be?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  31. Brummagem Joe says:

    @David M:

    More to the point a majority of bondholders voted for the bailout. Were they leant on? Probably but then as anyone with knowledge of the chapter 11 process knows leaning is a standard part of the proceedings. The only source of debtor in possession financing for both GM and Chrysler was the govt. Without it liquidation was the only option. With it secured there had to be an expedited Chapter 11 process or the whole thing could have dragged on for years while vendors weren’t paid and went bankrupt, the vultures haggled over the corpses etc. It was the expedited process the courts approved after a majority of the stakeholders including the bondholders had voted to approve it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. Doug Welch says:

    @MBunge: They’e both “loons” in their own way. I certainly didn’t see this as a pro-Romney post as apparently you, obviously a supporter of the Newt did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0