The problem with megalomaniacs is that they never stick to the script. Newt Gingrich is one of the few men in American public life that can get away with saying whatever he wants. Whatever nuance exists in his public persona is masked by the verbal violence he does to anyone who gets in his way. The conventional wisdom is that this strength, by far his greatest, will be his undoing. The reality is more complicated. Newt Gingrich has already imploded twice in this election cycle, only to re-emerge stronger and nastier than ever before. While Gingrich’s long, checkered history suggests that he may still be blasted by his own petard, the Republican presidential race seems to be coalescing into a two-man race between Gingrich and Mitt Romney. The lead-up to the Florida primary will even more contentious and ugly than South Carolina, with President Obama’s State of the Union address simply adding fuel to the fire. Gingrich will foam at the mouth, Romney will try to find a spine (and his tax returns), Rick Santorum will stagger on as the conservative alternative to the alternative, and Grandpa Ron will do…well, what Ron Paul always does.
Now, the reality is that Mitt Romney is as inadequate and inept a presidential candidate as the Republican Party has seen in modern political history. If he weren’t, he’d have wrapped this thing up by now. He is the wrong man at the wrong time, an establishment poster boy at a time of activist anger and growing disillusionment with Eastern elites. The Republican Party knows that. Mitt Romney probably knows it. And yet he’s the one with the money and the organization, and in keeping with an informal GOP tradition, Romney ran before and waited his turn. Mitt Romney will almost certainly be the nominee, because the Republican establishment will not allow an insurgent (though presumably unelectable) Gingrich to ruin their chances of defeating President Obama. If Romney begins to look wobbly in Florida, top Republicans will start to panic. If Romney loses in Florida, they will burn Gingrich’s fields to the ground and salt the earth. Gingrich will probably fight to the bitter end; his brilliance and his ego will demand it. Yet in the end, we will end up precisely where we started: Mitt Romney as the nominee, Newt Gingrich banished to the political wilderness, and President Obama looking stronger every day. All Newt Gingrich will have managed to do is wave his arms and attack people as only he can. Then again, that may be enough for him – he seems to like it. I know I do.