After Saturday night's Iowa debate, I'd bet $10,000 that Mitt Romney has sunk himself. Well, I might if I had an extra $10,000 lying around, which I don't. But after that debate, and more than a week of relentless attacks on him, why is Newt Gingrich still rising and Romney still sinking?
Gingrich's staying power has the Washington cognoscenti frustrated. When the Romney campaign launched its attacks on Gingrich, there was a flood of seemingly coordinated press promoting the attacks. In response, Gingrich had two New York press avails, looking friendly and presidential. And, in a now much-reported conference call with his staff, the former Speaker ordered them to avoid going negative.
The political consultants working against Gingrich seem unable to absorb facts or adapt their ideas to them. One of the biggest criticisms of Gingrich is his inability to organize staff and run a campaign. Karl Rove wrote what was supposed to be a devastating criticism of Gingrich's leadership deficiencies in the Wall Street Journal last week. Rove said, among other things, that Gingrich had failed to qualify for the ballot in both Missouri and Ohio and that the former House speaker had little or no organization in Iowa.
Rove's article would have been devastating but for one fact: it wasn't true. Gingrich has, for example, qualified in both Missouri and Ohio. His Iowa staff is strong and getting stronger by the hour.
Gingrich's key staffers have been with him a long time, and know their man well. The consultants who resigned loudly earlier this year weren't the Gingrich insiders. The veteran staff -- with a few new additions -- is also proving its worth hourly in dealing with the media.
Another reason Gingrich isn't fading is Mitt Romney. Let's face it: Mitt Romney is the Republican version of Al Gore. Even people who are predisposed to liking him can't seem to get there. Romney is supposedly more electable than Gingrich, at least according to the Inside the Beltway crowd and the major media.
Really? Liberal pollster Peter Hart's focus group, asked to pick a family relationship to Romney, labeled him "black sheep," "fun neighbor," "cousin," "second cousin," "dad that was never home." The same group labeled Gingrich "grandfather," "father," "my favorite uncle," and "uncle who keeps bringing home different wives." Is grandpa less electable than the dad who was never home?
In the Saturday night Iowa debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry again challenged Romney on the statement in his book No Apology that the Romneycare law in Massachusetts should be a model for the nation. Romney denied the book said that. (Perry was referring to a sentence in the hardback edition which said that the "Massachusetts Model" achieved portable affordable health insurance for everyone and "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care.")
Romney's denial was sort of true. That sentence was removed in the later paperback edition. Romneycare, we must recall, was the biggest reason the Wall Street Journal editorial page said a few months ago that Romney would be a better running mate for Obama than an opponent.
When Perry raised the issue of Romney advocating nationalizing the Massachusetts system, Romney said it wasn't true and held out his hand to dare Perry to bet $10,000 on Romney's truthfulness.
In 2010, according to the Iowa Department of Human Services, the median income for a family of four in Iowa was $61,657. How many Iowans -- or Americans outside of Iowa - would bet $10,000 on anything? Probably the same number as who will vote for Romney.
While Gingrich remains positive, the media eagerly await what they believe is the inevitable act of Newtonian self-destruction. They seize on anything he says that doesn't sound like something they hear around their newsrooms and try to make a feeding frenzy out of it. Yes, it could still happen. But the odds are against it because what Gingrich has been saying is what a lot of people are thinking.
When Gingrich said that school kids, especially those in poor families, could work in schools to learn the habits of reliability and earning, the media jumped on him. But people understood that Gingrich was right. Young Americans don't have the work ethic of their parents or grandparents.
Gingrich told the Occupy Whatever kiddies to take a bath and get a job. Those aren't the words of a wild man. They're what most working Americans think when they see the Occupy Whatever rabble.
When Gingrich said that the Palestinians were an "invented people," the media -- and the Palestinians -- thought the feeding frenzy could start.
On Saturday night, Romney came after Gingrich on this point. Romney said that he wouldn't make any statement like that without first consulting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gingrich claimed the Reagan mantle and spoke about the Palestinians again in terms he equated to Reagan calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Gingrich said he'd speak the truth even if it discomfited the "timid," meaning Romney.
Even the strongest supporters of Israel among us, including me, do not want an American president who will ask Israel's permission to make a speech or decide a policy. That's what Romney pledged to do and which Gingrich -- properly -- rejected.
With Iowa around the corner and New Hampshire and South Carolina following quickly behind, Gingrich is in a position to clinch the nomination. He can do it with a speech for which he has already laid the foundation.
In two televised debates, Gingrich went after the moderator for asking "gotcha questions" and demanding that the Republicans attack each other. He alone has dared challenge the all-knowing, all-powerful media.
It's long past time for a Republican leader to make a speech that says pointedly that the major media aren't in the news business. They're political activists abusing their power to propel Obama to re-election, and Americans know it. They're as angry at the media as they are at Congress.
The major media outlets -- the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS and many more -- are populated entirely by liberals. In 2005, Washington Post editor Marie Arana said, "The elephant in the newsroom is our narrowness.... If you work here, you must be one of us. You must be liberal, progressive, a Democrat. I've been in communal gatherings at the Post, watching election returns, and have been flabbergasted to see my colleagues cheer unabashedly for the Democratic candidates." It's a culture, not a conspiracy.
Americans know this and if Gingrich makes a speech that humorously criticizes the media rather than condemning or threatening them, Americans will respond enthusiastically with their votes in the primaries and, if he's nominated, in the general election.
Gingrich can reduce the liberal media's power in the 2012 election by pointing out that, for example, the New York Times is a dysfunctional liberal family the likes of which isn't usually found outside of Hollywood. He should take on the "suits" -- the people such as NYT publisher Pinch Sulzberger and the guys who run NBC/MSNBC -- who make people such as Chris Matthews, Maureen Dowd, and their ilk prominent voices on television and in print.
Gingrich should make this speech soon, before the Iowa caucuses, to make it a primary issue that will carry over into the general election campaign. People have been waiting a long time for this, and Gingrich is perfectly suited to do it. If he does, the nomination will be his and he'll disarm one of Obama's biggest weapons in the general election.