Steve Kornacki details Gingrich’s numerous liabilities as a general election candidate:
Everything about Newt Gingrich screams “general election disaster.” He is burdened with far too much personal and ethical baggage, is far too prone to needlessly inflammatory and polarizing antics, and turns off far too many voters with his arrogance and unconcealed contempt for his opponents.
The three most recent national polls all show his unfavorable rating at or near 60 percent — more than double his favorable score.
Kornacki then discusses how parties have failed to contain insurgent candidates in the past, which got me to thinking how very different Gingrich is from past insurgent candidates. As we all know, Goldwater and McGovern were insurgents running from the right and left of their parties respectively, and their campaigns represented thorough repudiations of both the incumbent party and the members of their own party that had accepted the prevailing consensus on the role of government (1964) and national security (1972). Gingrich is nothing like either of them. He is unusual in that he manages to combine an absolutely conventional “centrist” set of positions with what conservatives perceive to be the worst traits of post-1994 Republican governance and a temperament and rhetorical style that everyone else perceives to be unhinged and extreme. He is an enabler and defender of the status quo on entitlements and national security, he is a champion of so-called big-government conservatism, and yet somehow he can run to Romney’s left while winning over a lot of conservative voters simply by being angry and resentful. “On paper,” Gingrich is more of a moderate than Romney is today, but Gingrich’s contempt for his opponents (which Kornacki correctly identifies as a general election weakness) masks this and cancels it out. It’s as if a more combative, less honorable John McCain were running.
I still don’t think that Republicans are foolish enough to nominate Gingrich, but if they did they wouldn’t be nominating an ideological insurgent or a purist. On the contrary, they would be nominating someone closely identified with just about everything that has been wrong with the national Republican Party for the last fifteen years. As Brooks wrote last month, Gingrich’s nomination would “severely damage the Hamilton-Theodore Roosevelt strain in American life.”