I have some breaking news for you: Newt Gingrich is not going to be the next president of the United States. As I mentioned before, Mitt Romney is all but certain to become the Republican nominee, and most likely has a 50 percent chance of becoming our next president. It may take a little longer for Romney to become the nominee; but he’ll get there as Gingrich, most certainly, has no chance.
Here’s what we know about Gingrich: He’s smart, has a good sense of history, is astute and pretty good with quickly coming up with pithy one-liners at debates that typically result in a sustained round of applause. Gingrich is good at connecting with an audience, seizing an intellectual moment in an argument and body-slamming his opponent(s) with rhetorical flourish. We saw this when he was the speaker of the House and we see it now as he struggles to win over skeptics who are concerned that he does not have the tact, graciousness and ability to work with people who find themselves disagreeing with his policy positions or his politics.
I’m one of them. While I generally agree with the limited government, free market society philosophy that Gingrich expresses, I do not agree with his slash and burn, scorched earth policies of belittling people who disagree with you — or him. That’s what’s wrong with politics today, and there is a distinct correlation between the rise of Gingrich’s power in the mid-1990s to the decline of civility in the public square. It can be traced back to the meanness of the 1990s, which was highlighted on the cable news.
For example, it’s customary for the loser of a primary or general election to call the winner and offer congratulations. Mitt Romney did it three weeks ago when he lost Iowa to Rick Santorum, we saw this four years ago when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were battling it out over six brutal months, with both candidates calling each other when they lost to the other. It’s a tradition in politics that was most likely rooted in the basic grammar school manners that we all learned when we were toddlers. Nobody likes a sore loser. With Gingrich’s recent lost in Florida, no such call emanated from his campaign to Romney’s camp. There’s a word for that: childish.
The behavior goes even further; Gingrich went on that evening to speak to his supporters and not once congratulate Romney for a win, only to wonder into language of the good old days of the Contract with America and reminding us that he has been working to become president since 1958. I assume in that statement that he wanted to remind us that even at a young age, he was studying to be president and 44 years later he has finally figured it out. If that’s the case, then I would suggest that he take another 44 years to learn civility.
Gingrich ended his speech by talking about the pledge that he has made to himself to win this campaign. He said, “My life, my fortune, my sacred honor” [is to win this campaign]. When I heard that, I thought to myself, how small of Gingrich to think in those terms, and how insulting it is to the people out there who actually said that, and meant it not for their own personal or political gain, but for the goodness of mankind.
Gingrich, by virtue of his words and actions, is becoming irrelevant. Just like Herman Cain, but in a more somber, angry way. Unlike Cain, Gingrich appears to be bitter now, and quite frankly it’s unattractive and a bit scary. As he promised, Gingrich will march on, but I suspect that as this primary campaign season continues to slog on, he will be come less and less relevant to the point where there will be no Republicans following him. After all, nobody follows a sore loser.
Follow Robert Traynham on Twitter @ roberttraynham.