What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

  • Pundits and journalists have moved from denial about the possibility of Newt Gingrich winning the nomination right to the bargaining stage —it’s still unlikely that Gingrich will win, but, as John Cassidy asserts, “now it’s a real race!” However, Jonathan Chait argues that Mitt Romney should be more worried about the current frontrunner in the polls than pundits:

The national media tagged Romney from the beginning as the party front-runner. Largely, this reflected the old campaign cliché that Republicans always nominate the candidate who is “next in line.” You know: Ronald Reagan finished second to Gerald Ford in 1976, and they picked him in 1980, George H.W. Bush finished second to Reagan in 1980 and they picked him in 1988, Bob Dole finished second to Bush in 1988 and they picked him in 1996. Romney finished second in 2008, so this must make him the new front-runner. The trouble with this theory is that it takes an overly literal interpretation of what “next” means. Republicans don’t have a numeric fixation with the runner-up. They have a general comfort with authority figures and an established hierarchy. Gingrich was the leader of the Republican Party for several years. Yes, he flamed out. But party members have far more experience regarding him as their leader than they do Romney. His years of partisan combat also help insulate him from his many, since repudiated deviations from Party orthodoxy. It is not that Republicans won’t vote for Romney. It’s that Romney does not capture their fundamental attitude toward Obama. He can adopt the positions of the base, but he can’t seem to ape their feeling of fear and outrage toward the current president. Gingrich may lack money and organization, but he has a real opportunity, and Romney surely knows it.

Romney does appear to be worried — his campaign has descended upon Iowa in full force for the first time this election cycle, but, as one Iowa conservative said, “He has for too long neglected the state, so if he comes back he looks desperate, like a bad boy trying to come back to make good.” One problem that Gingrich has is that he shares many of Romney’s faults, as Molly Ball points out, but Romney suffers from not having one of Gingrich’s strengths: style.

  • However, all this Mitt and Newt talk could be for naught, at least in Iowa. Voters are trying to decide between the best of the worst when it comes to those two, but Ron Paul supporters love the guy. And in caucuses, when you have passion, you have a winner.
  • Could Obama really win Arizona?
  • Large chunks of the Obama presidency seem to be fading away in Back to the Future proportions. 
  • Jumping into deeper theoretical waters than yesterday’s New York Times article, John Sides asks whether it is still true that all politics are local.

  • The New England Journal of Medicine has a great piece on all the possible paths the Affordable Care Act could take next year based on electoral outcomes. The picture doesn’t look terribly sunny, but as Jonathan Bernstein notes, Obama may be able to win some of the AARP swing vote by saying that their benefits are safe with a reelected Obama administration (unless old fart-friendly Newt Gingrich wins the nom).

  • For a delightful dose of schaudenfraude, read Ryan Lizza’s compendium of the best Barney Frank insults. 

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