Handing the election over to Obama
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis,
Two days after Newt Gingrich defeated Mitt Romney in the South Carolina presidential primary one of Romney’s big-name backers offered a grim prediction for his fellow Republicans.
“The possibility of Newt Gingrich being our nominee against Barack Obama I think is essentially handing the election over to Obama,” former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty told reporters on a Jan. 23 conference call. “I think that’s shared by a lot of folks in the Republican Party.”
Pawlenty’s comments echoed those being uttered publicly and behind the scenes by elected Republicans, party activists, fundraisers and pundits, who represent a portion of the party establishment -- a “stop-Newt” caucus -- populated largely by people who have known the former U.S. House speaker for decades.
The question is: Can they?
For two decades, the Republican Party has seen an erosion of its traditional, top-down hierarchy, a decline aided by Gingrich himself in 1990 when he led a House revolt against a budget agreement negotiated by President George H.W. Bush that raised taxes. The rise of the anti-tax Tea Party wing in 2009 splintered the internal levers of power further, making it even harder to impose a choice on the rank-and file.
“There really is no Republican establishment left that can control anything,” said Matthew Dowd, a onetime aide to President George W. Bush and now a Bloomberg Television contributor. “Some try to act like they are in charge, but the fraternity is now running the campus...”
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