First, what are you going to say about the guy that people don’t already know? Herman Cain was undone because people were still forming their first impressions of him. Everything bad about Gingrich — the flip-flops, the wives, the ego — is known. Once voters have convinced themselves they can overlook that stuff, it’s hard to change their minds simply by repeating it.
Moreover, conservative voters distrust the conservative establishment — variously defined — almost as much as they distrust the liberal establishment. (That’s why David Brooks, the notoriously moderate New York Times columnist, leveled the most vicious charge he could against Gingrich: He touted their similarities!)
Also, Gingrich benefits by being the last obvious “not-Romney” candidate. Many voters assume that Gingrich is being attacked for the same reason that Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Cain were.
But the insiders worry Bachmann, Perry and Cain aren’t smart enough or can’t beat President Obama. The stop-Newters have no doubts about how smart Gingrich is.
As to whether he can beat Obama, opinions vary. But many feel that a Gingrich victory might be scarier than a GOP defeat. Gingrich’s defenders say such fear is a compliment because it shows that he’s a “change agent” threatening the status quo.
They have a point. Yes, Gingrich has eaten from just about every trough imaginable inside the Beltway. Yet he’s always been clear that he wants to (“fundamentally,” ‘‘historically,” ‘‘categorically” and “radically”) overturn the existing order. Some critics always thought, plausibly, that such pronouncements were part of his act or a sign of his megalomania.
But there’s another possibility: It’s true.