If Herman Cain’s presidential campaign collapses under the weight of multiple sex scandals — similar to the effect of piling topping after topping on a thin crust pizza, it appears that Newt Gingrich is the likely beneficiary in the “Anyone But Romney” sweepstakes.
It must be hard for Romney. He’s clearly the guy but no one is all that excited about it. Democrats are afraid he might win, and even Republicans are afraid he might win. There’s a collective resignation about his inevitability. He’s the Greg Kinnear/Bill Pullman character in the romantic comedy, and the GOP is Meg Ryan, desperately waiting for Tom Hanks to show up and sweep her off her feet.
Alas,politics is just as disappointing as romance in the real world — your Tom Hanks turns out to be Rick Perry, who has grand plans of turning Congress into a part-time job (which, logically, would ensure that only the wealthy could afford to do it) but that plan is stymied by his not seeming to understand what the legal voting age is.
But even Tom Hanks made “Joe Versus the Volcano.” Let’s toss Perry into one and move onto the next possibility — Herman Cain. Sure, he’s less Hanks and more Denzel Washington but he’s still not Romney.
Mr. Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza, does not follow any of the traditional rules of presidential politics. He has no political experience. His campaign has raised almost no money and as a result has virtually no staff or infrastructure. And Mr. Cain appears to make few of the tactical calculations that drive most presidential campaigns.
OK, he doesn’t look that good on paper, but you know who does look good on paper? Romney, and we don’t like him. This is simple deductive reasoning. So, Cain’s an unconventional candidate — what could go wrong?
Hmmm, so on reflection, Cain might be less Denzel Washington and more George Jefferson.
This brings us to Newt Gingrich. I don’t blame you if you’re confused. The non-Romney front runners in the GOP race are harder to keep track of than the current best friend of a teenage girl.
Gingrich might seem an implausible choice — no “yesterday’s news” candidate has successfully claimed the White House since Richard Nixon in1968. Although his opponents in the primary have positioned themselves as outsiders to the Washington establishment, Gingrich is a former Speaker of the House. His primary business experience, which is Cain and Romney’s selling point, is receiving $30,000 per hour from Freddie Mac for advice (that sounds like a lot but Freddie Mac paid Ann Landers $50,000 an hour for advice regarding the least offensive way of turning down your mother-in-law’s yam bread). Gingrich is also not a particularly fresh candidate: If elected, he’ll turn 70 during his first year in office, which means he’ll only have time to remarry twice at most before he retires.
However, GOP primary voters might be weary of the “Snow White” remake the race has turned into with Dopey, Crazy, Horny, and Doc. Gingrich has no surprises. He’s already had his sex scandal, which is important to get out of the way early — like chicken pox. We also know how the Democrats would receive a Gingrich presidency, based on how they lamented his departure in 1998:
“We are mourning the loss of having Newt to kick around anymore,” said one White House adviser who did not want to be named. “Newt Gingrich literally was the best thing the Democratic Party has had going for it since 1994. . . . If anything, there’s total depression on my side of the fence.”
Yes, the GOP is settling. It’s a great ploy — one Kinnear or Pullman should have tried in those movies. Safe Guy No. 2 comes in and grabs Ryan away from Safe Guy No. 1 before dreamboat shows up. Could Gingrich, who left D.C. in disgrace more than a decade ago — banished to his high-paying private sector Elba, return to the White House in triumph? Of course not. What, are you high? It’s totally going to be Romney, as Nate Silver, who has a brain in his head, correctly points out:
This year, however, a candidate like Mitt Romney would have more time to regroup after an early setback. I’m not just picking Mr. Romney’s name out of a hat. It seems that the candidate who could benefit the most is one who had stronger “fundamentals,” like fund-raising, campaign infrastructure and institutional support, which could potentially outlast transient swings in polling. That describes Mr. Romney better than it does someone like Mr. Gingrich, who does not perform well in these areas.
So, the guy everyone suspects is a secret Democrat (arguably a step-up from secret Muslim socialist) wins the nomination and perhaps selects a Vice Presidential candidate who appeals to the base. If he repeats the McCain Mishap of someone like Sarah Palin, he’s toast. If he selects a charismatic empty suit like John Kerry did with John Edwards, he’s burnt toast. He could look to Ronald Reagan, who chose George H. W. Bush as his running mate in 1980 partly because of Bush’s international experience and ability to appeal to the political center. That center doesn’t really exist anymore, so Romney would need to flip the scenario and select someone with D.C. experience and who appeals to the party’s base, which brings us back to Gingrich.
I guess I’ll go dust off my mid-90s Gingrich material. Some of that stuff was gold.