The "Angry Newt" Narrative

This morning on our CNN panel Will Cain and I discussed the “angry Newt narrative.” The question centered around Peggy Noonan’s latest column wherein she calls Gingrich an “angry little attack muffin“:

Right now Mr. Romney’s taking a beating. He’s everyone’s target, and in a way that speaks of something beyond the usual campaign ferocity. There’s something else going on, a taunting: “If you’re so inevitable how come I’m not afraid of you?” Newt Gingrich, angry little attack muffin, called Mr. Romney a liar.

This is why it has taken Republicans until New Hampshire to vet their leading candidate (and they didn’t vet him in 2008, either): criticize Mitt Romney and you’re called a meanie. Most of the people I’ve witnessed using this argument have been in politics longer than I’ve been alive, so unless the landscape has changed recently and I missed the memo, politics is still a bloodsport. No one is calling Romney an “angry little muffin” for doing exactly what Gingrich is doing; the difference is that Romney has a frillion groups and admirers doing it for him so he can keep his mitts clean and appear above the fray. If the tactic seems familiar, it’s because Barack Obama is famous for it. I’m not comparing Obama to Romney, just simply pointing out that they happen to share more in common besides health care.

The base is crying out for someone, anyone in this primary to stop pretending that Romney doesn’t have the gubernatorial record that he has. Those who pretend it doesn’t exist only kneecap themselves. They criticize ads from primary opponents which address Romney’s record. Instead of asking “Is this what the oppo will look like?” they howl over Gingrich quoting a NYT article.

Most media, and even the candidates themselves, coddle Romney at every debate and behave as though less offensive baggage from other candidates is somehow worse than socialized health care at the state level. I may have had my differences with Gingrich on different issues before, but this much I know: he’s not auditioning for a VP job in the event of a still uncertain Romney nomination.

Newt Gingrich is doing what the GOP would do, if they were smart, and testing the mettle of these candidates before the Obama machine does with good ol’ fashioned primary politics.