Friday, January 27, 2012


Obama Must Be Loving prospect of Newt as Opponent

Being a political junkie/anorak, I love election contests and the Republican candidates for the presidency are putting on a great show. That most unlikely candidate, Newt Gingrich, won South Carolina, thus upsetting the assumed lordly progression of Mitt Romney towards the big fight with Obama in November.

I say unlikely because a) he looks much odder than Ed Miliband- yet, like Robin Cook, has attracted three wives and at least a couple of extra-marital affairs. b) his personality has not exactly impressed his colleagues. He rose to be a formidable Republican politician in the 1990s as speaker of the House of Representatives. In 1994 he helped write the Contract with America which detailed then ten policies the party would introduce during its first 100 days if successful; this included lowering taxes and shrinking the state as well as reforming welfare. But Gingrich can be argumentative and irascible and fell out with colleagues. He lost the Speakership in 1998. He has married three times and his first wife accused him of divorcing her when she was in hospital with cancer.

In the mid-1990s, Gingrich began an affair with House of Representatives staffer Callista Bisek, who is 23 years his junior. They continued their affair(hypocritically by Newt, who played the morality card against Clinton) during the Lewinsky scandal. In 2000, Gingrich married Bisek shortly after his divorce from second wife Ginther.

Having trounced Romney in the last round, Newt is riding high in the Florida polls. It seemed his fortunes changed when he exploded in the last primary's televised debate and attacked the 'liberal' media for focusing on his unorthodox emotional history. Apart from being the most monstrous example of the pot calling the kettle black- what about Fox News and the shameless lies about Obama's birth and religion?-Newt cannot think he has laid this to rest- in the real thing he can expect an infinitely more merciless examination.

Moreover, the Tea Party, so effective in winning more seats in the Mid Terms, will surely serve Newt ill in the big contest, should he make the final. Newt is so far to the right his views will be exposed as out of step with mainstream voters. Obama, who has certainly underachieved in his first term, will, I suspect, have another four years to make amends. But, a small voice whispers, we never thought Obama would make it back in 2008 and just as he caught the imagination of voters back then, who is to say Gingrich might not succeed this time? But the odds must be against this. However, in this volatile contest, Newt's early lead seems to have evaporated and Romney now seems the firm favourite. Either way Obama can still sleep soundly for a while longer.

When the dust settles, Romney will be the candidate. And he will be a tough candidate for the underachieving Obama to beat.
I would have said, Skipper, that Obama should simply be delighted he's facing a Republican and not somebody half-way competent or sane.

Although I must admit, I am now trying to think of any American politician of any party or nonewho is half-way competent - and I've not managed to come up with one. Any suggestions?

Anyway, whether Obama's opponent is Gingrich, Romney or even Santorum probably won't matter a lot. Rather like Grant in the 1870s - he was no good, but everyone still blamed the Democrats for the Civil War which he was credited with winning, so that didn't matter a lot. Similarly, with growth slowly picking up and the Republicans blamed for the mess the economy is in and the huge debt, barring something entirely unexpected I think Obama should be OK.
As a fellow election-addict, I wonder if you have any thoughts yet on the French presidential race. There's a interesting ten minute podcast on this fascinating topic on the Economist's multimedia site.

Could be an exciting contest and possibly worth a flutter on the current incumbent (whose name I can't spell - hence this pompous way of referring to him) I think...
Francois Hollande seems to be leading the race in the polls but I get a funny feeling the incumbent is a canny operator who might well take him to the wire or even win.
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