(Roger Stone/The Stone Zone) – On the eve of the presidential nomination of Barry Goldwater at the 1964 Republican National Convention, Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton released a letter to the Senator accusing him of “nuclear irresponsibility” and “supporting a whole crazy-quilt collection of absurd and dangerous positions”. In his last-minute attempt to wrest the Republican nomination from Goldwater, Scranton handed Lyndon Johnson the cudgel the Texan then used to beat Goldwater to death. Governors Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney (Mitt’s father) piled on and then stood by as Johnson and the Democrats depicted Goldwater as a “trigger-happy extremist”. Thus, Republicans supplied the ammunition used to kill their chances of regaining the White House.
Foreshadowing Ron Paul by four decades, Scranton said the next day that he had neither seen nor signed the letter put out in his name, but by then the damage was done. Now history is repeating itself.
Now Newt Gingrich is doing the same thing in his intemperate attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record at Bain capital. By his own admission the TV spots run in South Carolina by a pro-Gingrich super-PAC run by a former Gingrich aide are “inaccurate”. David Axelrod is no doubt rubbing his hands with glee as the Romney is branded a corporate raider, a vulture capitalist and heartless killer of jobs – themes you can count on the Obama campaign and their own well-funded super-PAC to echo in the fall.
Newt Gingrich’s viability as a Presidential candidate was always based on the need to demonstrate that he was no longer the man who pitched a fit when Clinton aides told him to exit Air Force One through the rear stairs and who petulantly closed down the government only to have Clinton shove it up his keister. The “New Gingrich” impressed many in the early and middle debates when he refrained from attacking his opponents and kept his eye firmly on the defeat of President Obama. He threw that all away on the night of the Iowa Caucuses when he came across as angry, petulant and bitter. Now, instead of questioning Romney on his change of positions on abortion, gay rights and the taxes he raised on business in Massachusetts (all fair game in the Republican primary), Gingrich chooses to lacerate Romney on his record as a capitalist in the free market. Gingrich may well separate the Wall Street wing of his party from the main street wing.
To his credit, Ron Paul declined to pile on the way Rockefeller and George Romney piled on Goldwater almost 50 years ago. Dr. Paul believes deeply in the free market and steadfastly refused to betray that belief for a few cheap political points. With Senator Rand Paul indicating he will support the Republican nominee even if it is not his father, the chances of a 3rd Party candidacy by Ron Paul seems remote. Main street voters will have some place to go however, as former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who’s record as Governor is admirable, is likely to be the Libertarian Party nominee and thus is likely to be on 50 state ballots.
Meanwhile Evangelical Christian leaders Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and James Dobson, intent on proving they have no power whatsoever, met on the Texas ranch of a millionaire supporter to endorse former Senator Rick Santorum. The days when a leader like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell could lead their flock are long over. Evangelicals will scatter among various candidates. The group meeting in Texas is, as they say in the Lone Star State, “all hat and no cattle”.
Even if Gingrich slips by Romney in South Carolina, a Gingrich victory in Florida is highly unlikely. Approximately one third of Florida voters will vote by absentee ballot or in so called “early voting”. Romney has focused on these voters, Gingrich has not. A coming Jeb Bush endorsement of Romney is an open secret in the Sunshine State. The nomination of the “New Gingrich”, so possible just a few weeks ago, has faded as the “Old Gingrich” has returned to the stump.