Ever since the election campaign started, Newt has always gotten in his own way.
Now he has graciously stepped aside and let his creativity and intellect shine through.
Earlier in the debate, he bit the questioners’ heads off in piques of surly crankiness.
Now, Newt just answers the questions as they come, often hitting them out of the ballpark. His perspective and insight is penetrating, and his condescension has vanished (or at least is sublimated).
Unfortunately, he does owe some of his current surge to the unsubstantiated and vague charges against Herman Cain. While Republicans generally dismiss these allegations, they worry that they will hurt Cain in November, should he win the nomination. He’ll recover. His positive solutions for our economy will catapult him back into the upper echelon of contention. Michele Bachmann may also make a comeback, lifted by a tide of opposition to any tax increases embedded in the Deficit Reduction Commission’s report.
But any recovery by Cain or Bachmann will not bump Newt from the top tier. The likely result of the debate process is to bequeath to Iowa three or four contending candidates and leave it to them to sort out.
If Newt is the candidate, will his personal baggage drag him down? It’ll hurt, no doubt about that. The media will dissect his marriages, and his family will be deluged with questions and well-laid traps.
Newt’s ratings will decline as the inevitable baptism of fire begins. As with Cain, he’ll experience a few bad weeks. But, as with Cain, Newt’s positive strengths will carry him through the flames, and he will come out the other end.
But once Newt survives the process, he will be inoculated against the charges. He will have immunity against the issue.
And here is the core of Obama’s problem: Each of the Republican candidates will be so thoroughly vetted — and purified — by the brutal process they are going through that they will be immune to his charges against them in the fall. John Kerry never went through that process. His quick knockout of Dean and the tepid challenge mounted by Edwards did nothing to vet his claims of hero status in Vietnam.
Obama, on the other hand, survived the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers charges in the primary. When the general election came, Wright and Ayers were old hat and had no electoral punch.
Similarly, Bill Clinton got the nomination only after he had survived Gennifer Flowers and the accusations of draft dodging. In November, these charges were spent bullets.
That’s the good news for Republicans. The nominating process has been so combative and the media scrutiny so searing that the candidates have been pre-screened. The FBI screening process is nowhere near as intense as the negative research capacities of the media and political opponents.
If nominated, Romney will have survived the accusations of flip-flopping, Cain will have overcome the sexual harassment charges and Newt’s marital history will be yesterday’s news. And then we can get on with the business of winning the election.
And win it we will. Obama cannot survive his 60 percent disapproval rating on his handling of the economy (the highest ever recorded by CBS during his administration). Under his leadership, Gallup reports an almost 10-point edge for the Republican Party on handling the economy.
Against a generic opponent, Obama draws only 43 percent of the vote.
With the personal negatives on the Republican candidates aired and used up during the primaries, there will be nothing for Obama to hide behind.
Dick Morris is a commentator for Fox News.