After Rick Perry's unbelievably thoughtless comment at the last debate in Florida ("If you say that we should not educate children who come into our state for no other reason than that they've been brought there through no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart"), polling has changed on multiple levels. As you have undoubtedly already seen, Herman Cain won 37% of the vote in the Presidency 5 poll conducted after the debate. Rick Perry won 15% and Mitt Romney 14%.
Less reported, national polling now puts Rick Perry in first place with 28% approval, Mitt Romney in second with 21% and Newt Gingrich in third with 10%.
For obvious reasons, Mitt Romney is unacceptable to conservatives. Rick Perry may be unacceptable unless he finds a way to retract the utterly stupid comment he made on immigration. (Because of his comment, I was back to supporting Herman Cain before the debate even ended. I was surprised to see how many people agreed with me after the fact.)
However, it seems that not as many people understand that Newt Gingrich is not a conservative either.
Presently, Senator Tom Coburn represents the state of Oklahoma in the nation's Capitol. In 1994, he became a newly-elected member of the United States House, part of the freshman class over which Newt Gingrich presided as Speaker.
In his book, Breach of Trust, written six years later, he talked about his experiences in the years to follow:
"The last bill to be taken up before the two-week Easter recess [in 1997] was a bill that would have trashed one of the key items in the Contract with America. In 1995, we passed a bill that cut committee spending by a third. Now, only two years later, leadership had decided to increase committee spending by nearly 15 percent. Many of my colleagues were incensed that we were so casually going back on our word.”
Fortunately, the bill failed by a vote of 213 to 210. “A few minutes [after the vote], the whip’s office announced a mandatory meeting of the conference… it was immediately obvious Newt Gingrich was furious… Gingrich said every Republican would be meeting… even if he had to send the sergeant at arms—the police—to track members down. Senior Republicans had never heard of a mandatory conference before.”
According to Coburn, Gingrich said, “The eleven geniuses who thought they knew more than the rest of the Congress are going to come up and explain their votes… Those of you who had planned to go to [Representative] John Kasich’s wedding on Saturday are not going. No one is going anywhere until we get the votes we need to pass this rule.”
Representative Steve Largent wrote about the meeting in his diary: “[Gingrich’s] speech began by praising the moderates for voting with the team… He said he never wanted to hear from ‘you conservatives’ about the moderates going south on the party. (Interesting to me to hear Newt refer to us as ‘you conservatives.’)… He also suggested if we didn’t want to go along we should consider becoming independents and form our own party.”
Newt Gingrich's political career does not warrant election to the presidency. His personal life does not amount to anything admirable either; there are plenty of sitting and former U.S. House members who did not have to resign their seats because of practices in their personal lives. Most informed voters would not vote for Gingrich, because there is no reason to do so. Liberals would rather vote for a real liberal; conservatives would rather vote for a real conservative. Everyone else would prefer to vote for someone with a past speckled with fewer personal problems.
For now, Gingrich is draining support from potentially genuinely conservative candidates. Because his candidacy is unlikely to make it anywhere substantial, that problem will not persist far in to the future. However, we should hope that Gingrich and similar distractions do not sabotage qualified conservatives who might otherwise come closer to the top of the pack.