Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Newt Is Feeling His Oats

Last night there was yet another edition of the Republican Cavalcade of Debates (there will be eight more from December 10 to January 26), and it actually contained a couple of surprises, both of which were provided by Newt Gingrich.

Oh, most of the candidates are comfortable with extending the Patriot Act (with the exceptions of libertarian Ron Paul and sane person Jon Huntsman) and with military action against Iran (again, with the exceptions of Paul and Huntsman). No surprises there. But on a couple of issues, Gingrich staked out a couple of positions which clearly were designed to separate him from the pack.

First, on immigration:

Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich took issue with rival Mitt Romney's hard-line stance on immigration Tuesday night as the GOP candidates returned to a pivotal issue in their latest nationally televised debate. ...

Gingrich also said he believed the Republican Party had hurt itself with Latino voters and others by adopting harsh policies on immigration.

Gingrich, who suggested a "more humane" approach was in order, took a sizable gamble here, one that Rick Perry took and then took a beating for. Yet, his rationale shows some pragmatic good sense. The GOP took a hammering in California in 2010 by its immigrant bashing, a lesson that still hasn't been learned by most in that party. It's possible that Gingrich can pull this off without too much damage just from the sheer force of his personality and volubility.

His stance on defense spending, however, was a surprise, at least to me:

Refusing to rule out defense cuts, Gingrich said that there were "some things you can do in defense that are less expensive" and that "if it takes 15 to 20 years to build a weapons system, at a time when Apple changes technology every nine months, there's something profoundly wrong with the system."


Yes, a typical Gingrich turn of phrase, but these debates are clearly designed for sound bites rather than extended discourse. And the fact of the matter is that he is right on this issue rather than just being on the right. I actually was impressed by the good sense he was willing to display.

So, is Gingrich the candidate du jour for the next three weeks as the campaign plods along to unseat Romney as the nominee? Probably. The hit pieces started after the last debate when Gingrich moved into the first tier. They will no doubt accelerate as he inches forward again. And that means we will be hearing and seeing a lot more of Newt Gingrich. That will be fun.

More popcorn is in order.



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