This week, as Gingrich has begun to top Mitt Romney in national polls and key early primary states, conservatives have gone hard after the Georgian for transgressions past and present. Certainly, intra-party squabbling isn't unprecedented during primary season - Barack Obama still has scars left by Hillary Clinton supporters - but the range and depth of Republican distaste for Gingrich is startling.
What do they dislike about Newt this week? A lot of things.
It's his raging ego, says the Washington Post's right-wing blogger Jennifer Rubin, who says:
So one of Gingrich’s actual rivals will have to call out Gingrich, expose him as a charlatan and make the case that the GOP is heading for a trainwreck if Gingrich is the nominee. Is there someone able to do all that?It's the serial infidelity, says Redstate's Eric Erickson, who says he has difficulty supporting a man who is on his third wife after cheating on the first two. Erickson says he'd have to support Gingrich over Obama, but it clearly would be a tortured choice. "At what point does winning so badly mean willing to risk one's principles or one's soul," he asks.
It's the grotesque opportunism, says conservative George Will, who is no fan of Romney, either. Will recounts how on the eve of the 1994 election, Gingrich said South Carolina mother Susan Smith's drowning of her children "Vividly reminds" Americans "how sick society is getting, and how much we need to change things ... The only way you get change is to vote Republican."
It's that the Christian right probably shouldn't be associated with him, says the New York Times Russ Douthat. He explains:
To many younger Americans, religious conservatism as they know it often seems to stand for a kind of institutionalized hypocrisy ... that's incensed by the idea of gay wedlock but tolerant of straight divorce, forgiving of Republican sins but judgmental about Democratic indiscretions, and eager to apply moral litmus tests only on issues that benefit the political right.It's the mind-blowingly bad idea, writes the Washington Post's Kathleen Parker (who's more conservative-lite). The idea, of course, is Gingrich's suggestion that kids from poor neighborhoods should work janitorial jobs at schools to learn a work ethic. Says Parker:
Rallying around Newt Gingrich, effectively making him the face of Christian conservatism in this Republican primary season, would ratify all these impressions.
The former speaker's fumble is precisely what some Republicans have feared and others have breathlessly anticipated. The Washington Wager was whether Gingrich could make it four weeks without self-immolating before Iowa. Or would he find himself so irresistible that he just had to express himself?