COMMENTARY | According to CBS News, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has started to attack Rep. Ron Paul, one of his rivals for the presidential nomination, while on the stump. This would seem to be an excellent strategy.
Gingrich has approached the race with the idea that Mitt Romney, the moderate former governor of Massachusetts, was his main rival. He has even challenged Romney to a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate, an offer that Romney has thus far refused. This would be a good strategy if Gingrich had sealed the deal on his being the conservative alternative to Romney. But thus far, he has not done so.
Gingrich’s recent decline in the polls has not so much benefited Romney as it has Paul. As Gingrich’s poll numbers have declined, Paul’s has increased to such an extent that Paul, in at least one poll, is the front runner in the Iowa Caucus. If Gingrich can peel off some Paul supporters by attacking the Texas congressman, they might back to him.
In a way, Paul is a better foil for Gingrich than is Romney. Romney’s main attraction, even to some conservatives, is that he is calm, reasonable, and has broad appeal. In other words, he is not like the mercurial Gingrich. On the other hand, Paul makes Gingrich seem calm and reasonable by comparison. Gingrich can attack Paul’s foreign policy views and in so doing remind people that the former Speaker is more in the mainstream of conservative thought on the matter than is the Texas congressman.
Indeed, instead of challenging Romney to a one-on-one debate, Gingrich should challenge Paul. Unlike Romney, who is if anything cautious about getting into the ring alone with Gingrich, Paul might accept. He has the strength of his convictions and would certainly imagine that he can hold his own with Gingrich in a debate.
In that assessment he would be wrong.
A debate between Gingrich and Paul, especially over foreign policy, would be like Churchill debating Neville Chamberlain. It would not be so much a contest as it would be a live butchering on stage. Gingrich would destroy Paul, pick up some credibility on foreign policy, and presumably help his own poll numbers. Thus it would be a game-changer for the 2012 elections.
Source: Gingrich: Ron Paul’s base is “people who want to legalize drugs”, Walt Cronkite and Sarah Huisenga, CBS News, Dec 22, 2011