NEWT GINGRICH, SUPER-GENIUS.

For a long time, people on both sides of the aisle have noted what a brilliant political strategist Newt Gingrich is. So one might have expected that when George Stephanopoulos asked him yesterday on "This Week" how Republicans can win the '08 election, he'd have some striking insights. Well... not so much. Here's what he said:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well if - but then if she has the best chance of getting the nomination, you're not running now, but how do you recommend that the Republican nominee takes on Senator Clinton?

GINGRICH: I think it's very simple. The left is fundamentally wrong from the standpoint of most Americans on issue after issue. Let me give you an example. A substantial plurality of Americans would abolish the capital gains tax. The Democrats would raise it. The substantial majority of Americans, like 70%, would actually provide a tax break for corporations that kept their corporate headquarters in the US the Democrats couldn't think of something like this. You go down a list of these things. Yeah, 91% of the American people want to keep the Pledge of Allegiance saying "one nation under God" and are actually very deeply offended by the current court system's attitudes. And so you go through all these things. If a Republican candidate slows the election down, does what Reagan did to Carter in '80, slows the election down, finds the three to five things - English is the official language of governments in 85% issue. Senator Clinton is opposed to it. I mean, don't get into this, you know, 2004 swift boat veterans -

STEPHANOPOULOS: So not a personal case, an ideological case?

GINGRICH: I think trying to beat Senator Clinton personally is just insane. Everybody in America who's ever going to vote against Senator Clinton knows everything that anyone's going to tell them. And everybody in America who's going to vote for her knows everything you can possibly tell them.

A few months ago, I co-authored a report called "The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America Is a Myth," which laid out the myriad issues on which the public agrees with progressives, often by wide margins: economic issues, social issues, security issues, and on and on. But this is what they've got in response. Newt Gingrich believes that the next Republican nominee could win the White House by running a campaign based on 1) Eliminating the capital gains tax, thereby playing into Democratic arguments about how Republicans care only about the wealthy; 2) Not, as John Kerry proposed four years ago, penalizing corporations that move overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, but taking tax money from ordinary people and giving it to corporations who don't move overseas, as a kind of blackmail payoff; 3) Keeping "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, which every Democratic elected official supports; and 4) Making English the official language of the United States, a sop to the nativist right that will drive yet more Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing voting bloc, permanently into the arms of the Democrats. Sounds like a plan -- that guy's a genius! Or as former Bush spinmeister Torie Clarke said in the subsequent roundtable, "he does have intellectual firepower."

Or maybe he's just lying. The last Republican campaign that was, in Stephanopoulos' words, "not a personal case, an ideological case," was the Goldwater campaign. And Newt knows all too well what happened then. Every presidential election since then has seen the Republican argue that the Democrat is a weak, effeminate elitist who hates America and doesn't share our values. So has the guy whose PAC instructed Republican candidates they could "talk like Newt" by using words like "disgrace," "sick," and "traitors," to describe their opponents finally seen the light? If you believe that, I've got a bridge you might be interested in.

--Paul Waldman

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