After winning the Virginia Conservative Convention Straw Poll, Newt Gingrich did a fundraiser for the organization. Robert Bluey of the Human Events reported the event. At the event, Newt went on the attack against Bush:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich last night offered a grim outlook for the final two years of the Bush Administration, saying at best it would resemble President Gerald Ford’s administration and at worst President Jimmy Carter’s.
Those are choice examples for that crowd because the inevitable question is, "Who is our Ronald Reagan?". This question means different things to different people. I spent the weekend with a bunch of College Republican activists. For them, Reagan could communicate and inject hope. For the Romney backers in the crowd, "our new Reagan" was just that, even if he purports to be a moderate. For Human Events, Reagan was a conservative warrior. But everyone wants a Reagan. (interestingly, WaPo had an interesting comparison piece in which Bush is compared to Hoover. I think that there are important points about this comparison)
Of course, the real point is that Newt wants to run, but knows that he can neither raise the money nor buy into the staff. He would have to co-opt the conservative groups (who haven’t been purchased to wooed by Romney). BlogPI details some of the difficulties with this strategy. It probably depends on Newt performing well in straw polls over the next year, especially Ames. For example, Newt won the November GOP Bloggers Straw Poll (with Giuliani and Romney a close 2nd and 3rd)
Imagine if Newt comes in first at Ames or second behind someone unacceptable to the Conservative Movement. All of a sudden, he has a rationale for a candidacy. There are three catches:
- Romney or Brownback cannot capture the conservative base. I don’t believe that either one is possible. But if either one gets big enough or stays too small, the base gets fractured.
- McCain can’t capture enough to make it impossible. Once people buy into a candidate, it becomes very hard to get them to unbuy. And for these people, Newt will have to demonstrate that he is electable to get them to switch. We are not convinced about Newt’s electability at all. Indeed, a significant strategic goal is to duck the electability question entirely.
- How does Newt raise $100m between September and February to compete on February 5th? Newt would have to put together a finance team and that would look like a real campaign. This is where compression of the calendar kills Newt.