Skip to comments.US Primary suggests keeping an eye on Newt (Aussie interview of Bill Kristol)
Posted on 01/23/2012 3:30:53 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
One ballot for the Republican candidate for US Presidential nominee has favoured Newt Gingrich while a recount elsewhere gave Rick Santorum support so where does that put Mitt Romney's campaign as well as the candidate race as a whole?
HEATHER EWART, PRESENTER: Just days ago Mitt Romney looked like he was on track to be the Republican presidential nominee. But his political fortunes have changed with a decisive win by the controversial former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary at the weekend.
The contest will now drag on for a lot longer than Mitt Romney and political pundits had expected. But not everyone thinks that's such a bad thing. Bill Kristol was chief-of-staff to former Republican vice president Dan Quayle and is also the founder and editor of The Weekly Standard. I spoke to him earlier today in Washington, DC. I spoke to him earlier today in Washington, DC.
Bill Kristol, how significant is this result since recent history over the past 30 years shows no Republican has gone on to get the nomination without first having won the primary in South Carolina?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's awfully significant, Heather, and the main reason is that Mitt Romney, if he had won South Carolina, would've had some ability to say, "Look, I'm the inevitable nominee. It's time to fall in line." And the establishment would certainly have hammered home that point. There would've been a lot of pressure on everyone who's been on the fence to jump off and go to Romney. And now that's ridiculous of course. Romney, instead of winning - four days ago it looked like Romney might win three of the first three primaries, and now he's won one of the first three. It's a genuinely wide open race. It's a very exciting and unusual moment here in American politics.
HEATHER EWART: What went wrong for Mitt Romney?
BILL KRISTOL: I think that was always over-hyped, in a sense. I mean, it's not as if he has such a wildly successful electoral career. A lot of the establishment thought he was the right guy to nominate and once a lot of other people didn't run, there was a lot of default backing of Romney. But the establishment forgot to tell the American people and the American people decided they'd like to - or at least Republicans, decided they'd like to take a look at the candidates and make up their own mind. Romney's a run a very cautious, establishmentarian campaign. He was surprised when people said, "Could we look at your tax returns?" He was surprised when there were criticisms of his record at Bain Capital, the very successful venture capital and private equity fund he headed. And he seemed to think he could just answer those by saying, "Capitalism, capitalism, free markets: you know, how dare you question it." And I'm a conservative and I'm pro-free markets and pro-democratic capitalism; even I think that's not a satisfactory answer in our day and age. So, he really had a terrible couple of weeks.
HEATHER EWART: Should Romney and his supporters be worried, or is it still very much early days?
BILL KRISTOL: I think it's early days. It's quite possible someone else could even get in if Florida has an indeterminate result, or especially if Gingrich beats Romney in Florida. I think at point there would be total panic among the establishment, but a lot of concern among a lot of other conservatives who are enjoying Newt Gingrich's rise and his success - and I am a little bit, I've gotta say, but also a little wary of him as either a president or as a possibly successful candidate against Obama. Gingrich's numbers overall, his favourable ratings among the public, remain challenging for a candidate. So there'll be a sense of (inaudible) if these guys who first chose to run didn't work out. You know, we're 10 months away from our election. It's a kinda crazy system here in America. And why should we have to choose among the three or four who are currently in the race. There's plenty of time for others to get in, to run in some late primaries.
HEATHER EWART: Who might be a late starter at this point?
BILL KRISTOL: I think someone like Mitch Daniels, who's a two-term governor of Indiana, very successful governor, a solid conservative, certainly acceptable to the establishment, but also a real populous touch and has been just a terrific governor over the last eight years. Served in the Federal Government as well. You know, someone like that. Jed Bush - if his last name weren't Bush, it'd be better, but the very successful two-term governor of Florida. There are Republicans who can appeal to both more established business types and to the more popular sentiments in the Republican Party.
HEATHER EWART: Well as you've indicated, Newt Gingrich is a controversial character with a colourful past not embraced by the Republican establishment. Might establishment heavyweights now be doing all they can to try to stem his momentum?
BILL KRISTOL: Yeah, I think so. Maybe less because of his colourful past and more just because they're very nervous that he can't win, and some of them have doubts about whether he's sober and sort of stable enough to be a reliable president. On the other hand, I don't know. You know, voters look at Newt Gingrich and they see someone, and I see someone too to some degree, who came here in the '70s as a Congressman, served for 20 years - it's not as if he's never been in federal office. Worked his way up. He came number two and then of course number one in the Republican Party in the House. Speaker of the House for four years. It was a rocky tenure. It was controversial. He also accomplished a lot of good things from the conservative point of view. I think the establishment, it has a lot of disdain for Newt Gingrich, but I'm not sure that's entirely merited.
HEATHER EWART: From this distance, the race is looking pretty nasty. Just how toxic is the political environment there at the moment?
BILL KRISTOL: I don't think it's that toxic. I don't think there's much evidence in history that having tough, even bitter, primary fights hurts a party necessarily in a general election. First of all this general election will be mostly about President Obama's record. It's not going to be that much about what someone said - one Republican said about another in January, 10 months before election day. And if you remember back to 2008, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama ran a tough election fight - it went on forever. A lot of Republican friends of mine were sitting back and chortling and, "This is really gonna damage the Democrats." It didn't really matter at all. Obama won easily. In fact Obama was helped, I would say, by the skills he developed, by having to defeat a tough opponent, by the degree to which Democrats got excited by their primary and the Clinton supporters, after a few weeks of grumbling and getting used to it, came around to Obama. I think most - much of that would happen this time - I think. But of course one never knows.
HEATHER EWART: Is this crop of candidates really addressing the relevant issues, especially America's economic problems?
BILL KRISTOL: I think they're trying to and I think if you go to their websites and look at what they've - their staffs have produced, it's perfectly competent, most of it pretty conventional. Moderate conservative doctrines on economic policy, tax policy, regulatory policy and the like. But I think one reason Gingrich has caught on is something you imply in your question, which is Gingrich at least seems to grasp the gravity of the situation. He seems to understand this is a big moment for America, that we have a huge amount of debt, that these entitlements aren't sustainable, that fundamental changes in how our government works need to be made. One reason some of these Republican governors have been so popular - Chris Christie in New Jersey, Mitch Daniels in Indiana - is that they have made big changes, and what's ironic is that at the presidential level we seem to be having, certainly in the person of Romney, a more timid, a more cautious, a more conventional campaign. I think that's one reason Gingrich has caught on. He may be an imperfect carrier of a big change message, he may be an imperfect executor of big changes, but voters do have the sense that big change is necessary and Gingrich has conveyed that sense and sort of fit into that mood, I think, better than the others running.
HEATHER EWART: Who do you think President Obama and his team would find the biggest threat at election time?
BILL KRISTOL: I think their view so far has been that Gingrich would be the easiest to defeat. Santorum as well is awfully conservative, and Romney would be the biggest threat because he's the most moderate and allegedly could win over the swing voters. I think they're rethinking that now. And that's based on a somewhat I'd say sort of simplistic analysis of who the swing voters are. You know, when you live here in Washington or New York, the swing voters you think of are sort of upper middle class, socially moderate, economically pretty conservative types and they are the types who might go from Obama to Romney. They might have voted for Obama, time for a change in 2008; they might say Obama maybe wasn't quite up to it. Time for a sober guy with business experience in 2012.
But there's another kind of swing voter, and Obama won some of them in 2008: working class, lower middle class, often churchgoing people who've had a rough time in this economy. They were unhappy of course after eight years of Bush and they went for Obama in 2008. Romney seems very - to have a very hard time connecting with those people here in 2012. And I for one - I think someone like Gingrich or Santorum does connect with them clearly much better. I mean, that's why he won - Gingrich won South Carolina by such a huge margin.
If I were in the Obama camp, I might be contrarian and think that I would actually have a better chance running a slightly populist campaign against Mitt Romney.
HEATHER EWART: Interesting times. Bill Kristol thanks very much for joining us.
BILL KRISTOL: My pleasure.
Very interesting interview by Kristol, who clearly understands some of why the establishment is out of touch - even as he is part of that establishment.
a true Conservative by self-acclamation only
I have met Bill Kristol, he was our guest speaker at a reunion I attended last summer. I like him even tough I believe he is part of the FNC establishment along with Chuck,and the gang.
Bill Kristol just came to the same conclusion that SC voters did day before yesterday.
Just a thought:
Has Willard spent a great deal of money in the first states thinking he would secure the nomination and then just slide though the remaining without having to spend much?
The other candidate may have managed finances more realistically/conservatively. Spend what they raise.