As Newt Gingrich’s victory in the South Carolina primary upended all previously held notions surrounding the unfolding GOP primary race, a common and vocal narrative has become increasingly prevalent; namely, that while he excites the Republican base, Gingrich is an unelectable, personally unlikable candidate that will be trounced in the general election.
This notion is utterly false.
While it is certainly accurate that any of the four remaining candidates for the Republican nomination will provide a stark, and compelling, contrast to the failed policies of the Obama administration, it is Newt Gingrich who has of late tapped into a visceral chord of discontent that permeates throughout much of the nation.
And, contrary to the narrative promoting Gingrich’s un-electability, the anger and discontent felt throughout the nation is not relegated to the conservative base of the Republican party. Nearly every political demographic in the nation, left, right, and middle, is frustrated with the Obama administration’s failure to improve the economic health and overall condition of the country.
Right direction/wrong direction polls have consistently shown that more than three-quarters of the country feel as though the nation is on the wrong track. In a recent poll released by Rasmussen Reports, only 24% of American feel the country is headed in the right direction.
More importantly, in a recent CBS poll, only 23% of Independents felt that the country was on the right track. Just over half of Democrats polled agreed. Couple those numbers with less than one in ten Republicans optimistic about the direction of the country and you have an electorate ripe for fundamental change; one seeking an impassioned voice to articulate their apprehensions toward the current administration’s policies.
In Newt Gingrich, it appears for now at least, that many Republican voters have found that voice. While the external validity of exit polling in South Carolina should rightly be questioned, it did show an unmistakable and broad swath of support for Gingrich among many divergent constituencies.
It is the continued support from these very groups that will be crucial to success in the myriad swing-states essential in the Fall election.
While Gingrich easily bested his opponents among nearly all income, age, and ideological constituencies, it was his wide margin of victory among voters whose primary concern was “beating Barack Obama” that has piqued the most interest among pundits.
Within this demographic, Gingrich secured half of the available vote in a four-man contest. That type of success portends an appeal much broader than conventional wisdom has thus allowed.
The type of conservative populism that Gingrich excels at is precisely what disaffected voters throughout the nation are seeking; a bold voice with laser-guided precision, honed in on the failed policies of the Obama administration.
To argue that a candidate with such an attribute would be unelectable in a general election, against an incumbent whose job approval numbers hover south of the political Mendoza line, strains credulity.
It is true that Gingrich’s colorful past will provide political fodder for Democratic operatives should he secure the GOP nomination. But that reality will follow whoever becomes the Republican standard bearer.
American of all stripes are seeking an impassioned leader to rally around in the Fall. If Gingrich can maintain the energy and passion he stirred in South Carolina, an in so doing continue to articulate the ideals of American exceptionalism and conservatism so distinct from the policy failures of this administration, he will in fact provide a formidable challenge to Barack Obama in November.