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Newt Has Invented His Doom

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The first last step was touching the moon.

As the Republican primaries approach their de facto end in Florida, Newt is making a lot of noises about staying in to the end, and entertainingly is now resorting to the last refuge of pundits who want to deny the obvious, the brokered convention. Drum finds the possibility of Newt taking this to the convention plausible; I suspect that no matter what he’s saying now he’s going to find himself tired of getting his clock cleaned while running out of money pretty quickly. Either way, it’s worth remembering that there’s no actual evidence that a divisive primary hurts the electoral promises of the eventual winner, so it doesn’t really matter whether Newt stays in or not.

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  • Scott de B.

    If you lump all divided primaries together, you may lose any correlation with general election performance, but it seems a trivial observation that the 2008 Democratic primary was qualitatively different than the 1968 or 1972 Democratic primaries, or the 2012 Republican primary.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Well, yes, but to the extent the 2012 GOP primary is different, it’s that the runner-up will have many, many fewer committed supporters and is highly unlikely to win a single primary after Februrary 1. The 2008 Democratic primary is the “tough case” here.

      • elm

        I think you’re taking your prediction here too far. While I doubt Newt stays in until the convention, it wouldn’t surprise me if he stays in until Super Tuesday, hoping for a dominant showing. While a good enough showing to reinvigorate his campaign is unlikely, if he lasts that long, he’s highly likely to win at least one primary on that day (Georgia? Tennessee? Oklahoma? I have no clue what ND or Idaho do.)

        It’s highly unlikely anyone but Romney wins the nomination if he wins Florida. I think it’s maybe 50-50 that Newt (or Santorum if he pulls ahead of Newt in FL) wins another primary even if he loses Florida.

      • If Newt Gingrich were to win several primaries after February 1st, would that cause you to reexamine your inevitability theory? Not change your prediction about the outcome, but back off the argument that the outcome is predetermined?

        For that matter, is there anything, other than Gingrich actually winning, that would lead you to conclude that the contest is actually contested, and was not inevitable from the beginning?

      • Anonymous

        I’m not sure that I agree. As far as consolidating the party base, I agree that the Democratic 2008 primary was much more problematic. But, I wonder if this primary is doing serious damage to Romney’s ability to win over independents. His unfavorables are climbing at a rate.

        • Malaclypse

          Yea, but keep in mind that Mitten’s normal pattern is for people to loathe him more and more as they see more and more of him. Newt did not get Mitt to say “Corporations are people.” That was just Mitt being his normal asshole self. He won’t stop doing that between now and November.

  • howard

    Without the adelson checks, there is no money to support the gingrich campaign, so adelson will determine how long said campaign continues.

    • R Johnston

      Adelson can fund a deliberately losing vanity campaign to the tune of a half billion dollars without blinking. There’s no reason at all for him to be less likely to spend 50 times as much on Newt as he’s already spent on Newt; either way, his marginal utility loss is exactly zero.

      • Cenk Ugyur said essentially the same thing, that it’s to his benefit to spend at least $500 million on Newt’s campaign because that’s the tax break he’d get if Newt drops capital gains to zero.

        Of course, that only pays for one year’s tax bill, so in theory he could finance $2 billion and still break even.

      • Manju

        You look into the fiery furnace, see the rich man without any name.

        • No doubt, Adelson’s ultimate fate is to live in hell, true.

          • DrDick

            Unfortunately, he wants to make sure that the rest of us live there for at least 4 years before hand.

  • Either way, it’s worth remembering that there’s no actual evidence that a divisive primary hurts the electoral promises of the eventual winner, so it doesn’t really matter whether Newt stays in or not.

    Following the link suggests that there is such evidence.

    Paul-Henri Gurian, author of this working paper, disagreed and responded in the comments:

    We find that a divided party will lose up to 5% nationally in the general election, as well as losing up to 2% in individual states that had divisive state primaries.

    and

    In a 2010 paper, Amber Wichowsky and Sarah E. Niebler (gated) argue that then Senator Obama was actually helped by the primary’s competitiveness. Wichowsky and Niebler seek to disentangle competitiveness (the closeness of the election) from divisiveness (the negativity of the campaign) and then estimate their respective effects on Obama’s general election performance. The authors find that more competitive primaries featured more political ads, but a smaller proportion of negative ads. Competitiveness did not breed divisiveness. Moreover, the more competitive the state’s primary or caucus, the better Obama did in that state in the general election

    Which suggests that a Newtonian primary season might well hurt Romney.

    (There’s some more in the comments.)

    I agree that it’s not a slam dunk by any means, but the divisive primary hypothesis seems genuinely contested.

    • R Johnston

      Considering that, given the upheaval in campaign finance laws and the structure of the modern media, the sample size of relevant comparison elections is more or less zero, it really doesn’t mean anything to say that “it’s worth remembering that there’s no actual evidence that a divisive primary hurts the electoral promises of the eventual winner.”

      • Hmm. That’s not clear to me.

        My quick glance at the posts and papers doesn’t reveal any dependence on the workings of the modern media or financing such that recent changes would suggest that the prior analyses were invalid.

        It seems sufficient to refute Scott’s claim to cite the post he linked too :)

  • Matthew Stevens

    My research in 1990s showed a strong correlation between divisive primaries in the incumbent’s party and general election outcomes. Divisive primaries in the challenger’s party didn’t have any effect at all, so the Obama/Hillary competition wasn’t relevant to the thesis.

    • But then Newt really doesn’t matter?

      • Matthew Stevens

        Nope, he doesn’t. He can be Churchill to his dwindling battalions of civilizing forces all he wants, it shouldn’t effect the chance of Romney becoming president.

        • Hogan

          We shall fight in the suburbs, we shall fight in the exurbs, we shall fight in the gentrified urban neighborhoods, we shall fight in the fruited mountains and the purple plains, and we shall never surrender until Sheldon Adelson’s last dollar has been spent.

          • Manju

            heh.

    • Manju

      That makes sense. The CV on a divisive primary is probably based on Kennedy v Carter. But Carter was a sitting President challenged by a legit contender. Kennedy sent the message: even we Dems think the last 4 years were the Suck.

      Mitt is more Bam circa ’08. Hillary made him stronger. It was better for the American People to hear about Rev Wright, Secret Muslim, Farrakhan, Race-card player, drug-dealer, etc during the Primaries than for them to be surprised in October.

      Obama got an opportunity to tweak his retorts. By the time McCain was accusing him of not being ready to be commander in chief, he had already faced down the 3am ad.

      Newt is putting Mitt thru training camp, particularly when he attacks from the left.

      • Socraticsilence

        You do realize its laughable to compare a wounded duck like Mitt to Obama ’08- heck, its a stretch to compare Mitt to Obama ’12, on the one hand you have an incredibly charismatic junior Senator, on the other a once defeated transparently characterless vulture capitalist- literally the embodiment of the economic practices that drove the US into recession. I’d agree that Newt’s attacks would have immunizing effect, if that is said attacks were along the trivial lines of the Wright smears, but being a 1% scumbag isn’t a smear its Mitt’s raison d’etre and you can’t really divorce yourself from only core conviction.

        • Halloween Jack

          You do realize that Manju is laughable in general, right?

  • Stephen LaRose

    As an aside, thanks for the references to one of Dylan’s under-rated songs.

  • I think Newt’s toast.

    But I do not think the race is over.

  • I was going to say Carter-Kennedy, but Manju beat me to the punch. Assertions about what effects this or that have on the outcomes of presidential elections are tough, I think, because the sample size is so small. Unlike clutch hitting, it is hard to know whether a Vice-Presidential choice makes a difference, or whether a divisive primary colors the results. If we are talking about the post-WWII period, for example we are talking about 34 races– (have I got that right?). Carter-Kennedy, and Ford’s challenge from Reagan were two incumbents who looked as though they were weakened. Health issues may have been what drove LBJ away, but he was having a rough season too. Humphrey had a divisive primary campaign thereafter. The primaries for the out party are pretty much always divisive, so they don’t tell us much. I’d say that we haven’t got enough data.

    • And was Obama/Clinton really all that divisive? The stuff Newt is pulling right now impresses me as really dirty pool. HRC and Obama involved much less vitrol in my recollection.

      • Halloween Jack

        There were some very, very, very bitter people when HRC didn’t get the nomination, but their numbers and influence were grossly exaggerated by various pundits for the ratings. It couldn’t be that divisive when they were running on almost identical platforms.

      • Well, there were race cards thrown on both sides, and the PUMAs were the first to pick up on the birther meme which did make a splash.

  • david mizner

    Isn’t this something of a unique case in that Gingrich is partially hitting Romney from the ostensible left, pointing out that he’s a plutocrat fave of bailed out bankers who likes to fire people. It jibes with the Dems’ attack.

    Yes, Clinton sometimes did the GOP’s work for them, with for example her 3 am critique, but the stuff was more than outweighed by the importance of Obama’s winning a tough race. Beating Clinton helped show he was ready. Romney doesn’t look more impressive for beating Newt.

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