Newt Gingrich never got to complete his political career. He only lasted as Speaker of the House, a job he'd successfully wrangled after plotting his path for a psychotic 14 years, for a couple of terms, the latter half of which he spent as an incompetent figurehead. He was reprimanded and fined for ethics violations and forced out of power by the House Republican majority he'd brought to power for the first time in half a century.
These humiliations ruined his chances of ever becoming president, a job he'd craved since his childhood when he wrote and directed a high school play in which he cast himself as Richard Nixon — a similarly enigmatic, calculating, resentful, amoral beast who was also smarter and more talented than Newt Gingrich would ever be. (I'm not joking about the play, either. Incredible!)
He finally decided to go for it in 2012, hoping his past was too distant for the median voter to remember or at least feel viscerally repelled by. But the world had taken to this widespread doo-da in the many years since Newt Gingrich was an active politician, called the Internet. It had the magical ability to recreate the terror of 1990s Newt Gingrich for newer audiences, only with faster, louder, torturously cherry-picked immediacy. New campaign finance entities called SuperPACs, too, had plenty of cash too scoop up the best stuff and put it in television ads. Now he's down in the polls and doesn't appear to be coming back in what must be his last political campaign. This makes him mad. And mad in a way that he's constitutionally incapable of resolving in an adult, constructive way. If he can't end his legacy on the high note he'd always dreamed of, he'll settle for amplifying the lows. He seeks sanctuary in extremes, and he'll take whichever one's available.
All of which is to say is that this could be the entertainment event of a lifetime!
David Corn at Mother Jones, perhaps the writer who best understands Gingrich after years of close study, explains what's ahead when a spurned Newt Gingrich accepts his fate but still has some campaign funds and finds himself in the proximity of a Mitt Romney:
But a presidential candidate scorned can be a dangerous thing. Gingrich has never had a self-esteem problem. His ego is supersized. And with his late-autumn jump in the polls, he, no doubt, was measuring himself for a crown. (Tiffany's?) He all but declared his ascendancy was inevitable. Yet then that nasty super-PAC came along and…told the truth about Gingrich, in killer attack ads, behaving much as Gingrich had always counseled GOPers to act. In a 1978 address to College Republicans, before he was elected to the House, Gingrich declared, "I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty." Well, if his goal back then was to nastify the GOP, he can proudly proclaim, "Mission accomplished."
But having been on the receiving end of Newt-like treatment, Gingrich is not going to quietly skulk back to his Newt Inc. empire and continue to cash in. First, it seems, he must crush Romney. Which is not such a hard task. At the upcoming debates, Gingrich will have plenty of ammo-all those flip-flops and whatnots-to blast Romney to smithereens. If Gingrich goes scorched earth, he can provide much material for Democratic anti-Romney ads and will obviously tick off the Republican Party pooh-bahs who have already decided that Romney is the only credible candidate in this sorry lot.
It will be as if a time bomb with a very long fuse has finally detonated.
The Republicans embraced Gingrich when his thuggish formula for success worked and returned them to power in the House of Representatives. But now that same explosive force can be trained on the GOP inner circle's favorite. Live by the Newt, perish by the Newt? Romney might be able to withstand the detonation of the Gingrich death star. But if Gingrich does go nuclear on Romney, it will be a fitting-and not unpredictable-end to a long reign of terror.
On second thought, the war imagery in that excerpt is maybe slightly overdone, but nevermind that. It's supposed to be healthy when primary candidates reach likely inevitable status and has to prove their durability by fending off extreme, desperate attacks from rivals on their way down. But Newt Gingrich definitely doesn't think of it that way. If he recognized that something he did could have even the smallest beneficial side effect for Mitt Romney, he'd drop out right now. Thugs can't see the whole picture because they've willed themselves never to look.
[Unusually convenient symbolic image of Newt Gingrich shunting the light and submitting to the Dark Forces via AP]