Friday, December 2, 2011

The Clash of the Republican Titans

Whatever happens between Herman Cain and his wife this weekend (wouldn't you love to be a mouse in that corner!), he and Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are definitely Republican 'has-beens.'  They've had their fifteen minutes of national political fame, and now they're done.  Caput.  Finie.  I'll be so glad when Iowa runs their caucuses, and these turkeys exit the race.

"Fall of the Titans", Haarlem, 1588
 The new 'Clash of the Titans' in the Republican nomination race is now between the steady-eddy Mitt Romney and the rising Republican phoenix Newt Gingrich.  This should prove to be interesting.  (See Charles Krauthammer's insightful article in the WaPO.)

What Romney and Gingrich have in common is that they are good debaters, they both represent well the 1%, they are both foreign policy super-hawks, and they both have some off-putting personal characteristics.  So they actually agree on a lot, much of which could repel most Democratic and Independent voters.

Mitt Romney has been the 'stealth' candidate so far, flying under the radar, limiting his exposure to the media, doing just enough to stay afload but not doing anything to hurt himself.  So as one flash-in-the-pan candidate after another has appeared and then disappeared, Romney just keeps flying along at about 20% of the Republican field.

Newt Gingrich has really not been taken seriously until now.  Why that is so, I'm not sure.  He certainly has credentials, as I listed here.  But he sure has taken off, like a new German V2 rocket.

Here's a little of his biography from Wikipedia, which is quite fascinating.
Gingrich was born at the Harrisburg Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on June 17, 1943.  He was named Newton Leroy McPherson.  His mother, Kathleen "Kit" (née Daugherty; 1925–2003) and father, Newton Searles McPherson, married in September 1942 when she was 16 and McPherson was 19.  The marriage fell apart within days.  In 1946, his mother married Army officer Robert Gingrich (1925–1996), who adopted Newt.  Gingrich has three younger half-sisters, Candace Gingrich, Susan Gingrich, and Roberta Brown.  Gingrich is of German, English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry, and was raised a Lutheran.  Gingrich was raised in Hummelstown near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and on military bases where Robert Gingrich was stationed.

In 1961, he graduated from Baker High School in Columbus, Georgia. He became interested in politics during his teen years while living in Orléans, France, where he visited the site of the Battle of Verdun and learned about the sacrifices made there and the importance of political leadership.

He received a B.A. in history from Emory University in Atlanta in 1965, a M.A. in 1968, and a PhD in modern European history from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1971. His dissertation was entitled "Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945–1960".

While at Tulane, Gingrich joined the St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church and was baptized by the Rev. G. Avery Lee.  In 1970, Gingrich joined the history department at West Georgia College as an assistant professor.  In 1974 he moved to the geography department and was instrumental in establishing an inter-disciplinary environmental studies program.  Denied tenure, he left the college in 1978.
Newt was elected to Congress from the Georgia 6th Congressional District in 1978. (My guess is that his interest in politics--having run and lost in '74 and '76--probably accounts for his failure to get tenure.)  And in 1994, he was elected Speaker of the House when the Republicans took the majority for the first time in 40 years.  He resigned in 1998, rejected by his own party for a variety of failures.

Newt's biggest liability is his tendency to be a know-it-all, pompous ass.  That really turns people off.  He's been more self-disciplined about that recently, using his pomposity mainly against the mainstream media.  We'll see if he's able to continue that self-control under the pressure of a presidential campaign.

Mitt's biggest liabilities are also personal in nature.  The first is that he is a Mormon, which the religious right--a big part of the Republican Party--is suspicious of.  And the second is his weird personality, which is hard to describe, but I think you know what I'm talking about.  He comes across somehow as inauthentic and defensive (such as on his recent interview on Fox News, which he complained about the questions he was being asked).  That's why he has shielded himself from the media most of this year, which in the short run has helped him, but in the long run will hurt him.

I'm guessing that Newt Gingrich has the edge in the looming battle.  But given Newt's self-destructive tendencies, I wouldn't ever bet a lot of money on that prediction!

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