It is time for Republicans to step up to the plate

Yes, I still believe Newt Gingrich would have been the best candidate to take on Barack Obama. While my polling was never biased, my heart favored a man of such intellect and experience to be the GOP nominee. Perhaps, in Newt’s world, that is still a possibility.


But, in my mind, with so many issues swirling about in both the national arena and internationally, it is time for this great leader to lend his mind, his energy and his experience to the next likely Republican nominee for president — Mitt Romney.

I know this is a bitter pill to swallow. Romney was cruel in his personal attacks on Gingrich in states such as Florida. Romney’s campaign staff is cold, not open to reaching out, and the candidate himself seems made of wax, dressed in blue jeans to appease the masses. But Richard Nixon was no charmer, and he likely saved the nation from a permanent “Great Society” when he defeated Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Being lovable and saving a nation are two completely separate things. And, for the record, my close friends who are very close to Romney say he is the complete opposite of the cold, national image that he must fight.

Rick Santorum is a genuinely conservative’s conservative. But he is also a neophyte. When he uttered that basically there would be no difference between re-electing President Obama and electing Mitt Romney, he lost me. Gingrich, I must note, a longtime loyal Republican whose credentials exceed even those of Romney, immediately rejected Santorum’s comments.

And this is not a matter of math. Yes, it is possible Gingrich and Santorum could deprive Romney of the necessary number of delegates prior to the convention in Tampa, Fla., but to what end? A huge battle over who is the most conservative candidate in late August with only two months remaining before the November election would destroy the GOP and any hopes it has of defeating President Obama.

This is tough to write because I personally know Newt Gingrich as few have ever known him. But I do not regret this column because I believe that Gingrich could not only mentor and assist Romney, but actually help him in so many public and private ways win the presidency. If Romney and his forces do not realize this, then they are doomed to defeat. I personally think the former governor is far too smart to consider the man who basically saved America in the late 1990s some relic of the past.

I understand the concern that true conservatives have over Mitt Romney and whether he is really devoted to their cause. But nothing makes a candidate more devoted to a cause than to be forced to pledge himself to it over and over again. In my years of experience, I have found “converts” more dedicated to a cause than those who have lived and breathed it all of their lives. That does not mean that I somehow judge Romney as a convert to the conservative cause. But it was clear from the start of his campaign that many a longstanding conservative had issues with his past positions, and moreover, his passion for a conservative future.

I actually feel sorry for the Romney strategist who used the so-called “Etch A Sketch” to describe how the campaign might change its image should Romney win the nomination. The man did not say that Romney would abandon the positions he has taken during the campaign season. Instead, he was talking about reaching out to critical independent voters who may not have been engrossed in the details of a GOP contest that is overexposed and seemingly never ending. If the Republican nominee does not, then Barack Obama is assured re-election, something I believe to be more likely than most.

Let me make it clear that I remain a devotee of Newt Gingrich. Should Romney win the presidency and fail to call on Gingrich’s unequalled knowledge and ability to serve in Cabinet posts such as the Department of Defense or Health and Human Services (no one could destroy “Obamacare” like Newt), then Romney would prove to be an unforgiving and unfortunate fool.

But I do not view Mitt Romney as one who would let the past stand in the way of a successful future. And for Gingrich, who clearly still has much vigor left, Romney is not his only choice in serving his nation. Georgia still clearly loves its former “speaker.” In two years, a United States Senate seat occupied by a man who has a few potential problems with conservatives in Georgia comes up for grabs. But that brings up another star of Georgia politics, Herman Cain. I’ll have more to say about that down the road.

For the moment, my view is that Newt Gingrich is the smartest and most experienced man in the presidential field. If I were trying to win the nomination, and moreover, the presidency, I would be reaching out to him — like, now.

•••
(Matthew Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. His column is distributed by Morris News Service and Creators’ Syndicate.)



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