Now that all of the candidates have been properly vetted it seems pretty clear to me that Newt is the most electable GOP candidate. That is not to say that he will have an easy time against Obama as historically it is very tough to unseat incumbents (it took a Reagan to beat the disastrous Carter and even then it was pretty close until the debate a week before the election) but he would have the best chance out of the current crop. Mitt Romney would do more to fracture the GOP than anyone else in recent history and much of the GOP base would simply stay home or vote for a 3rd party in the fall. Rick Santorum, aka Saint Rick, has a streak of social conservatism that borders on social fascism and will scare away most of the electorate. Conversely, Newt, while not perfect, can excite the base while at the same time logically convince non-conservatives of the rightness of his views. Also, many of the issues that have plagued him during the primary season (Freddie Mac, sitting on a couch with Pelosi and his opposition to cramming the Ryan plan down people's throats) won't be major issues in the fall. Now, let's go through the candidates in greater detail:
It seems like only yesterday (okay, it was last week) that people thought Rick Santorum was the Chosen One who could finally unite the base and the establishment after a primary season that has been plagued by internecine warfare. Now it seems pretty clear that he is a divider, not a uniter and has as close to a zero chance of actually winning the general election as someone can get in a major party. Instead of focusing on the economy and Obamacare, which could unite people behind both him and GOP, he has focused on such issues as the evils of contraception and prenatal diagnostics. Instead of focusing on grand themes that just about everyone can agree with (and requiring the other side to point out why one group or another would stand to lose), he just outright offends people all by himself, doing the Democrats work for them. He is someone who offends gays, women, parents, protestants and libertarians (in total about 80-90% of the electorate). And I'm not talking about some gaffe taken out of context, I'm talking about actual beliefs that he vigorously defends. Also, at a time when people are pretty much miserable, he decides to focus his energy on attacking things that people actually like. He has railed against both gambling and porn, using left wing statist reasoning in the process:
America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography. A wealth of research is now available demonstrating that pornography causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences... Rick Santorum believes that federal obscenity laws should be vigorously enforced.
So because "scientific studies" say something may be bad, we need government officers telling us what we can and cannot watch in the privacy of our own homes? Isn't that the same logic that led us to all those horrid environmental regulations?
I just really don't think Americans want some sort of moralist telling them they are being naughty all the time and taking away some of their cherished vices. Also, what is the point of kicking someone out of office because he thinks government knows best with another guy who thinks government knows best?
Romney, also, is unelectable for the simple reason that he completely horrifies the base. I would estimate that a good 10-15% of the base would simply stay home if he is the nominee or vote for a 3rd party. It's pretty clear that he won't repeal Obamacare, he wants to raise the job-killing minimum wage, and has a terrible record as Governor. You would think that some of his non-conservative views would endear him to independents but it appears he is in the midst of losing them as nobody likes a candidate who doesn't believe in anything and doesn't seem to care about the poor very much. He also is in danger of chasing away the Reagan Democrats as he is exactly the type of candidate that repelled them away from the GOP before Reagan came to town. He is an out of touch mushy moderate who has zero in common with them.
Finally, the clearest evidence that he is unelectable is that despite the fact that he spent more in January than all the other GOP candidates combined (a whopping $32.6 million!) and had a massive organizational advantage, he still lost most of the races this primary season. What do you think will happen when there is a level playing field and he has no financial or organizational advantages. You got it. He will lose.
Now on to Newt. While he has been absolutely vilified by the GOP establishment and the Romney campaign, there has really been nothing that has been brought up that is an election killer. In fact, many of the issues will simply go away in the fall. Freddie Mac? Let's see Obama bring that up when he received over $126,000 in bribes, err I mean donations, from Fannie and Freddie while he was in or seeking office (he was the #2 largest recipient in Congress, #1 was the notoriously corrupt Chris Dodd). Nancy Pelosi? Let's see Obama make an issue out of that one or Newt's opposition to cramming down the Ryan plan. Sure, Newt will make some gaffes but usually he makes gaffes that are logically defendable (e.g. poor kids should be given work at school, his space comments) , unlike Santorum's claim that protestant churches have been infiltrated by Satan.
Newt also has great potential to unite the party. Economic conservatives like him because he balanced the budget and reformed welfare. Defense hawks like him because he is the most hawkish of the lot. Social conservatives, when they can get past his personal life, like him for his strong record on issues like abortion. Even libertarians can live with him because although he is thoroughly conservative, he isn't over the top on social issues. Romney won't make any of these groups happy. And Santorum, while clearly a social conservative and a defense hawk, is not as economically conservative as you would think and outright hates libertarians. This is a problem because libertarians and libertarian-leaners probably make up 40-50% of the party.
Also, unlike Romney and Santorum, Newt can actually explain the ideas of conservatism in an eloquent manner that might actually convince people to come over to the GOP as he has spent a lifetime arguing both with himself and others about those very same ideas. How could Romney every convince anyone to be a conservative when he isn't one himself? How can Santorum keep people interested when he constantly comes across as a joyless moralist?
Newt's biggest flaw seems to be the perception that he is erratic, that he doesn't have the temperament to be President. Did you know that Reagan once told an ally who had betrayed him "I should have shoved it [the bat hanging on the wall] up your a*s and broken it off!" Or that he called hecklers "stupid" during one of his speeches because they interrupted him? Or that he would throw his glasses when he got upset during meetings? He seemed to do pretty well.
And one final point on Newt. He has done what he has done without any establishment support and even less money and organization. Now imagine, if he were the nominee, what he could do with the full force of the RNC and other GOP affiliated organizations behind him.
Hence, I remain 100% with Newt and believe he is our best chance at winning in the fall and reversing Obama's destructive agenda.
Cross posted from libertarian neocon's blog.