Most clear-eyed political observers thought that Newt Gingrich's candidacy would be unsuccessful, but no one could have foreseen just how rapidly it would implode. Forget about the Tiffany's revelation -- after criticizing Paul Ryan's plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program, Gingrich was actually forced to call Ryan to apologize. Just imagine how humiliating that must have been for someone who sees himself as a world-historical figure. But this episode is about more than Gingrich.
In every primary campaign, candidates have to prove themselves to their party's base. There are often arguments about who best embodies the party's philosophy (you might remember Howard Dean generating cheers for saying he was there to represent "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party"). But Gingrich probably thought he was beyond that. After all, he's Newt friggin' Gingrich! Mr. Contract With America! 1994! Surely Newt Gingrich doesn't have to prove to anyone he's a real Republican!
It turns out that even Gingrich has to keep demonstrating his ideological bona fides and new litmus tests are being added all the time. It used to be that if you were pro-life and thought taxes could never, ever be raised, that was enough. Then you had to support torture, and be a climate denier, and oppose an individual health insurance mandate. And now you have to support a budget plan that was unveiled just a couple of months ago. Step a toe over any of these lines and you're no longer "one of us." Anyone, even Newt, can get pulled over by the GOP border patrol and asked to show their papers.
So now Newt has come up with a novel way of handling this. He has proclaimed, "Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood." I certainly hope no one, Democrat or Republican, would stoop to the dirty trick of quoting Newt's words.
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