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Fri Feb 22, 2013, 09:24 AM

The wisdom of…Newt Gingrich?

His warnings about the futility of Karl Rove's newest project prove that even a broken clock is right twice a day


Newt Gingrich’s rhetorical tics are well-known – his fondness for the word “frankly,” his eagerness to frame even the most mundane development in dramatic world-historical terms, and his eagerness to accuse his enemies of practicing “machine” politics.

So it’s tempting to dismiss the broadside he leveled against Karl Rove and his Conservative Victory Project earlier this week as typical Gingrich grandstanding. And to a degree, that’s all it is. In a Human Events Op-Ed, the former House speaker and failed 2012 White House candidate accused Rove of employing “the system of Tammany Hall and the Chicago machine.” Anyone who’s been following Gingrich for a while is surely familiar with this line of attack; here, for example, here he is in the summer of 1993 castigating Bill Clinton and “the Democratic machine” for forcing a tax hike bill through the House (a bill that ended up playing no small role in the balanced budgets of the late ‘90s – but that’s a story for another day).

Hyperbole aside, though, when it comes to what Rove is up to, Gingrich has a point. Rove’s project, which was announced a few weeks ago, is designed to steer big dollars from elite donor into Republican primaries for key Senate races with the aim of denying self-destructive candidates – think Todd Akin and Christine O’Donnell – nominations.

But there are some obvious problems with this. The first is that it’s easy to spot an obviously unelectable candidate like Akin after the fact, but if he had never shared his views about “legitimate rape” there’s a good chance he would have gone on and defeated Claire McCaskill in Missouri last fall. After all, her approval rating was jarringly low and the GOP-friendly state sided with Mitt Romney at the presidential level. Akin’s actual platform was really the same as most other Republicans candidate running in high-profile races last year; the only difference is that he made an undisciplined utterance that alienated a wide swath of the electorate. Granted, there was some reason to suspect Akin might be prone to such outbursts; it’s why McCaskill quietly spent money trying to help him secure the GOP nomination. But in general, trying to weed out trouble candidates ahead of time is a very inexact science.


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