If anyone can talk his way into the White House it should be Newt Gingrich. A former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Gingrich has made a career of thinking on his feet. What is remarkable, then, is that it was Mitt Romney who scored the damaging blows during Thursday’s Republican debate.
Mr. Gingrich began strongly, winning a standing ovation while addressing his ex-wife’s claims he once asked for an open marriage. The debate host led with a question on the subject, and Mr. Gingrich melodramatically shot back, “I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that,” winning viewer sympathy.
He certainly towers over the likes of Rick Perry, the Texas Governor who suspended his own campaign for the presidency this week and endorsed Mr. Gingrich. Mr. Perry’s campaign was fatally damaged by his cringe-inducing mental block during an earlier debate, after he declared he would eliminate three government agencies, then couldn’t name the third one.
On Thursday, however, Mr. Romney had Mr. Gingrich on the defensive. On one occasion, Mr. Romney turned a question from Mr. Gingrich on how he was a job-destroyer, not a job-creator, into a rousing defence of capitalism and a self-narrative in which he helped create more than 100,000 net jobs – as a man who had spent time in the private sector, unlike his competitor.
Mr. Romney also took Mr. Gingrich apart for his habit of portraying himself as the virtual architect of the Reagan revolution.
“You’re mentioned once in Ronald Reagan’s diary,” said Mr. Romney. “In the diary, he says you had an idea in a meeting of young congressmen, and it wasn’t a very good idea, and he dismissed it. That’s the entire mention. And I mean, he mentions George Bush a hundred times. He even mentions my dad once.”
Many commentators have deplored the flawed collection of candidates for the Republican nomination. While Mitt Romney is, of course, not perfect, and has sought to accommodate his policies to the Tea Party and other radicals in his party, he stands out as a plausible candidate.