When did Newt become sexy? (Politically speaking)
Just a few short months ago, pundits were writing off the former House Speaker's candidacy. Despite possessing conservative credentials, Newt's early blunders such as favoring, then opposing intervention in Libya, revelations in May that he once owed as much as $500,000 to Tiffany & Co., and the resignation of all his senior campaign aides, left his candidacy in tatters. Moreover, Gingrich's apparent lack of personal appeal made the likelihood of his nomination even more remote.
Newt's surge to the top, and his newfound political sex-appeal, seem like they can only be explained by something other than Newt. His rise appears rooted in desperation among Republicans to find a conservative candidate who can be taken seriously when matched up against Pres. Obama. Because it looks more and more like only Gingrich can answer this call, Republicans have entered a state of denial about the qualities they initially disliked in him.
The buzz Newt's generating is reminiscent of the hype surrounding John Kerry in '04, as he headed into the Democratic Primaries. Like Gingrich, Kerry had been tested on the national stage, was ideologically in sync with his party, and offered a tonal contrast to the sitting president. In spite of Kerry's apparent lack of charisma, Dems squeezed every bit of political capital out of the seasoned Senator. This was on full display when the war hero marched onto the stage at the Democratic National Convention, and announced to a fever pitched crowd:
"I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty."
The electricity in the room that night wasn't enough for Kerry to overcome his political shortcomings. If Newt gets the GOP nomination, his personal and political liabilities, like Kerry's, won’t continue to be ignored. And if in fact there's nothing new about Newt, Republicans may be laying the groundwork for defeat at the polls in November.
-Amitai Perline is an Associate Producer for Up w/ Chris Hayes