The dilemma of U.S. Republicans to find a presidential candidate has brought an old acquaintance to the foreground: the dubious Newt Gingrich.
There are still a good four weeks until the first caucus in Iowa. Yet, Mitt Romney, up to now the favorite for the Republican presidential candidacy, must once again fear for his lead. Now Newt Gingrich wants to take his place. The formerly powerful speaker of the House is suddenly even with or a little ahead of Romney.
Until now, the former governor of Massachusetts could shake off all competitors from the right. Their star sank without any help from Romney. They all stumbled over themselves at the end. The last example: The black Republican Herman Cain. The former pizza chain businessman is accused of harassment and affairs with women. No one knows exactly what is true. But one thing is clear: At least two of Cain’s former female colleagues were paid damages.
Cain at first didn’t want to remember and then only partly. Finally, he entrapped himself in larger and larger contradictions. That became his doom. Many American presidential candidacies have already been shattered by lies and secret scandals.
And now Gingrich is climbing in the Republican popularity scale. Of all people, the dubious Newt Gingrich, who has changed his political hat more often than Romney — who in blind zealousness wanted to overthrow Democratic President Bill Clinton on account of a false statement in the sex affair with Monica Lewinski, but who secretly committed adultery himself. Like hardly any other, Gingrich is the epitome of political doublespeak and double standards.
Romney levels the way for competitors
And yet there is an explanation for the sudden climb of this shifty power seeker. The reason is Mitt Romney. He is an unloved favorite; he is too slick for most Republicans, too malleable and insufficiently right wing.
Since wanting to become president, Romney has clothed himself in conservative garments. Yet, he cannot shed his past. For four years as Republican governor, Romney governed the liberal and traditionally Democratic-oriented state of Massachusetts. That alone makes Romney suspect in the eyes of many Republicans. One does not believe the assertion that his political heart beats right. He has not delivered any concrete evidence of it.
It's different for Gingrich. He also has repeatedly flirted with some of the Democrats’ ideas in the past years. Like Romney, Gingrich was for the implementation of mandatory general health insurance, stronger environmental protection and dealing with emissions allowances. But one pardons Gingrich for his “left” escapades, because one remembers that he once stood very, very right and can demonstrate successes.
In the '90s, Gingrich helped to break the decades-long majority in Congress. He was a hard-nosed fighter and the archenemy of all on the left. Along with ex-President Reagan, Gingrich is considered the trailblazer of the long-standing conservative hegemony. As speaker of the House of Representatives, he extracted painful compromises from Bill Clinton and the Democrats. The austerity policy of the time, the cuts in the welfare system and a balanced budget, are to his credit.
Party members alone make the decision about the Republican presidential candidate — primarily, the dyed-in-the-wool and staunch. They traditionally think more conservatively than the party as a whole and, in any case, more so than the [average] American voter.
This faction of the Republicans desperately seeks a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who is at the same time anti-Romney and anti-Obama. They first held hope for the staunch ideologue Michele Bachmann, then the Texan, Rick Perry, and finally Herman Cain. Now they turn to Newt Gingrich.
The irony of the story: Like the right, Obama and the Democrats also hope for a Gingrich victory in the primaries. His candidacy against Obama would close the left ranks, mobilize liberal voters and scare off many moderate conservatives.
And what is Mitt Romney doing in the meantime? With good cause, he fears for his role as favorite and cautiously seeks to attack. Yet, when kicking out, he does not feel comfortable in his skin. He is more of a technocrat than a fighter. Therefore, he retains a gigantic hope: that Gingrich, like all of his other competitors from the right, will finally stumble over his own shortcomings. That is quite possible, but far from a done deal.