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Gingrich: Even his sister doesn't want him to win [The conversation]

December 12, 2011 | 12:04 pm

Newt Gingrich's surge in the polls has the women at Jezebel worried. "We were hoping that Newt Gingrich might drop out of the presidential race and retreat back to the '90s, from whence he came," writes Margaret Hartmann. No such luck. Right now, Gingrich and Mitt Romney are the likely threats to President Obama. And while Gingrich looks all wrong on paper -- he's a wealthy Washington insider with troublesome family values -– Romney just looks wrong, literally. With three weeks to go before voting begins, here's what a few Opinionators are saying about Gingrich's chances.

How Gingrich can win

Newt's dog-whistling to his base is effective.  The lazy, inner-city kids with no work ethic -- that Republican depiction of American poverty descends from Reagan's "strapping young buck" buying T-bone steaks with food stamps.  But general elections turn on independents, not on the faithful.  What Newt needs to reach the White House is enough swing voters who are turned on by his apparent fearlessness. 

He's not afraid to say that the U.S. and Israel should bomb Iran's nuclear program, or that Palestinians are terrorists.  He actually seems to enjoy it.  If we voted with our heads, then Americans would weigh the upside of saying such things against their pragmatic outcomes. We'd ask, will this bring us closer to our objectives?  But we vote with our gut, and our gut loves excitement.  So instead we ask, how cool would it be if a candidate said that?  With Obama comes steady-as-she-goes; with Gingrich come histrionics, conflict, suspense, surprise.  Let's face it: Newt's better casting for the reality show we prefer to reality.

--Marty Kaplan in the Jewish Journal

Factors that may hold him back

One possibility is that Newt suffers, and benefits from, the milder affliction of hypomania. In his 2005 book "The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America,"  John D. Gartner, a Johns Hopkins psychiatrist, arguesthat this form of extreme optimism explains the achievements of everyone from Christopher Columbus to Andrew Carnegie. Gartner writes: "Hypomanics are brimming with infectious energy, irrational confidence, and really big ideas. They think, talk, move, and make decisions quickly. Anyone who slows them down with questions 'just doesn't get it.' " Hypomanics lack discipline, act on impulse, suffer from over-confidence, and often lack judgment. […]

Gingrich is every bit the flip-flopper Romney is, but so confident in his views at any given moment that he comes off as steadfast instead of malleable. Bullets-can't-hurt-me Newt can depict his work for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as his warning that they would destroy the financial system. He can lobby without being a lobbyist, divorce multiple wives while advocating traditional values, and denounce political corruption while epitomizing it.

--Jacob Weisberg, Slate

Why his own sister doesn't want him to win

If there's space in your brain that should be devoted to keeping the younger Kardashian sisters straight, but is instead storing information about Clinton-era politicians, you probably remember that Gingrich's half-sister, Candace Gingrich-Jones, has openly criticized her brother's policies for some time. Gingrich-Jones (who still pronounces the name "Gingrick") is a LGBT rights activist with the Human Rights Campaign. (And once appeared on "Friends"!) In the past week, she's started speaking out more about her brother, and is working to reelect President Obama no matter who the Republican candidate is.

--Margaret Hartmann, Jezebel

Why he'd struggle as president

For him, specific policy improvements can't just be undertaken. It is first necessary to "fundamentally" change the federal government, or whatever piece of it is performing sub-optimally -- in this case, the State Department. Of course, if Bolton kicked off his tenure as Secretary of State by attempting a "complete, thoroughgoing transformation" of the agency, including the culture of its employees, the certain outcome would be that he'd accomplish nothing. And if Gingrich's rhetoric is to be believed, that's how his whole presidency would unfold. He's the anti-thesis of a Nike ad. "Don't just do it -- it won't work till you change everything!"

--Conor Friedersdorf, the Atlantic


Mcmanus: The new Newt Gingrich

Goldberg: Gingrich the compassionate

Gingrich's janitor idea conceals a serious point

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Newt Gingrich during Saturday’s GOP presidential debate on the campus of Drake University. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

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