By Gregg Easterbrook
The opinions expressed are his own.


Conventional wisdom says the Republican presidential nomination will go to Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. This could change – don’t be surprised if it changes more than once. But suppose conventional wisdom proves correct. If you were Barack Obama, which would you rather run against?

A follower of polls might say, “Of course Obama wants to run against Gingrich.” An Obama-Gingrich race could end with a walkover for the incumbent, as happened in LBJ-Goldwater of 1964 and Nixon-McGovern of 1972.

Gingrich, some thinking goes, has a borderline personality. His past is full of strange diatribes on a weird range of subjects. As Ronald Reagan sometimes confused movies with reality, Gingrich confuses science fiction novels with reality. He threw a temper tantrum about his seat on Air Force One. Hardly anyone likes him personally. He was a transparent opportunist with Fannie and Freddie, organizations that voters hate. Gingrich is proficient at bloviating, and the one time in his life he held actual responsibility as Speaker of the House he did a terrible job. Would you trust the nation’s budget to a man who ran a $1 million tab at Tiffany?

Gingrich hectors others about their personal lives, while presenting himself as a champion of traditional values. Yet he admits betraying not one but two wives. Some kind of new low in politics was achieved when Gingrich formally pledged to stop committing adultery. Gingrich wears the letter H — for hypocrite — around his neck as Hester Prynne wore an A around hers in The Scarlet Letter.

These are sound reasons why Obama might prefer to face Newt. They are reasons the Republican National Committee is said to be feeling panicky about a Gingrich candidacy. Newt has the potential to lose by a spectacular margin, dragging Republican Senate and House candidates down with him. The Republican establishment has not forgotten how much damage he did to the GOP during his administration of the House. Run against a guy even your opponents despise? Sounds promising.