Now that Gordon Gekko, er, Mitt Romney has handily won the New Hampshire primary and is within striking distance of the finish line, what’s been interesting to watch hasn’t been the imaginary glass ceiling that the pundits have been predicting would be his undoing. You know the supposed 24 to 25 percent ceiling he could never surpass in Iowa; a state by the way that only six weeks ago he was projected as finishing no better than third in. Well, so much for ceilings, imagined or otherwise.
No, the most fascinating (and oddly humorous) thing has been both the attacks on Romney’s campaign – mainly from Newt Gingrich – and the circling of the wagons around the former Massachusetts governor by the very people who weren’t all that crazy about him to begin with.
Yep, the man who burned more political bridges than any other public figure with the possible exception of maybe Benedict Arnold has been leading the assault against Romney’s past association with Bain Capital and none other than Rush Limbaugh has been his chief defender.
I’ll pause right here so that you can regain your composure…
Maybe the Mayans were right after all and 2012 is the year of the apocalypse. I mean, when you hear a Republican – and not just any Republican, but the former Speaker of the House who went toe to toe with Bill Clinton and had his butt handed to him – start to question the ethics of the kind of speculation that Bain Capital engaged in – the kind that lead to the current mess we happen to be in by the way – and the principle protagonist of the current GOP frontrunner, the one who went out of his way to say he wasn’t even a conservative, ends up taking his side, I don’t know about you but I’m heading for higher ground this December. A compassionate conservative and RINO apologist; it’s the end of the world as we know it and I’m feeling VERY confused.
Actually when you take a closer look, it’s a lot less sordid and confusing. While Gingrich may look like he’s championing a higher moral ground, his motives are far more down to earth and predictable. He’s not only 0 for 2 so far this primary season, but he’s finished out of the money in each contest. How bad has Gingrich been? In New Hampshire, Jon Huntsman, the invisible candidate, got more votes than him. To say he is desperate would be an understatement. His only hope is to so badly wound Romney that voters, who heretofore would never have voted for him, might take a second look and reconsider. So far the only thing Gingrich has earned is the wrath of his own party, who see the writing on the wall and have apparently decided to protect “their man.”
Which brings us to the real story here. Why, all of a sudden, are so many far-right conservatives going out of their way to defend the honor of someone who is a cross between Al Gore and Gerald Ford on the personality scale and is still seen by many as nothing more than a moderate in conservative camouflage? The answer has nothing to do with Romney, who still has a considerable way to go to convince the restless hordes of his sincerity – good luck with that one!
The real reason is that, without quite realizing or intending it, Gingrich hit a raw nerve with his Bain attacks; a nerve that will only continue to throb as the year plows on and more and more voters take a closer look at the used car salesman from hell and the real reason for his “success.” The truth is that the kind of capitalism Romney practiced so skillfully at Bain Capital is the sort that rubs most people the wrong way and the Right knows it full well. While the populist big government narrative bore huge dividends for the GOP in the 2010 midterms, every poll taken shows a seething contempt for Wall Street and the banks that got huge bailouts and were never taken to task for their misdeeds. No matter how you slice it, Romney is vulnerable here, and in a tight race between him and Obama, the President has the upper hand.
That’s the reason for the circling of the wagons around Romney, and that’s why Gingrich is now starting to backtrack on his attacks. He knows full well that he just threw the Dems the motherload of all gifts for the fall campaign. Romney will have a very difficult time explaining how he had to gut companies to “save” them. What he did and why may play well to the thousands of hedge fund managers who still don’t understand the role they played in almost destroying the collective economies of the West, but on Main Street USA it’s a no-sell.