Gingrich Can Debate -- But Can He Win?

Thursday, 17 Nov 2011 03:42 AM

By Greg McDonald

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Newt Gingrich’s recent surge in presidential polls has many Republicans beginning to relish the thought of the former House speaker facing off against President Barack Obama in the general election. But the overriding question is whether the master debater can beat the incumbent president in 2012, according to Jonah Goldberg of the National Review.
Writing in the National Review Online Wednesday, Goldberg says Gingrich has been “deftly using the [Republican] debates to develop a sales pitch to GOP voters” that apparently is beginning to work.
“The core of his strategy has been to plant a question in the minds of Republican voters,” writes Goldberg, a National Review editor-at-large and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “The question he wants them to ask is: ‘Whom would you most like to see debate Barack Obama?’”
While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may be winning the debates, Goldberg says Gingrich’s thoughtful and measured performances, on top of his “Reaganesque refusal to attack his fellow Republicans,” is winning over the hearts of conservatives.
“Gingrich’s promise to goad Obama into a fair fight is beyond tantalizing,” Goldberg writes. “Talk to rank-and-file conservatives about such a matchup and they grow giddy, like nerds asked if they’d like to see a battle between Darth Vader and Gandalf the wizard. Ask them if they’d like to see an Obama versus Romney debate (the thrilla with vanilla!) and they shrug.
But Goldberg acknowledges there is a difference between picking a Republican candidate who might be able to trounce Obama in debates and one who could actually win the election.
Given Gingrich’s well-publicized personal and political baggage, Goldberg writes, GOP voters in the end may settle for the latter “as a purely practical matter.”

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