Hillary Clinton’s sudden fall from the “inevitable frontrunner” position is going to create big and fast-moving waves through both parties’ nomination processes. Things might not be entirely as they seem.
That’s what went through my mind after reading this post on TownHall.com. According to Duane R. Patterson, a couple of unlikely lads have attached themselves to Mike Huckabee’s campaign: Dick Morris and Newt Gingrich.
Very quietly, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is meddling in the GOP primary field. A couple of weeks ago, there was a press release that indicated Rick Tyler, long time communications director for Gingrich, was taking a leave of absence from his day job, and helping out the communications effort for Mike Huckabee.
Mark Levin over on The Corner writes today that Newt and Dick Morris are both helping the Arkansas populist former governor, Newt behind the scenes, Morris publicly. The question is why is Newt doing this?
When the Tyler move became public, the theory developed that Newt still envisions himself running for the presidency, but didn’t think this cycle was the right time to run because of the aura of invincibility of Hillary Clinton. Newt would then benefit by helping out the perceived weakest of the GOP candidates, ensuring that come January ’09, the Republicans would begin their four year wandering through the desert. This would set up Newt as the White Knight in 2012, riding to the rescue after President Hillary screwed things up in her first term.
But after Iowa last night, another theory is beginning to develop. Hillary’s aura of invincibility is no longer there. Barack Obama is now the frontrunner, and although very charismatic, he’s an empty suit, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Newt may now be thinking that there’s a window of opportunity this cycle. All that needs to take place is for Huckabee to take a couple of the early states, Rudy take a couple of the big states, McCain maybe taking a state here or there, and Romney to take a couple, and you have yourself a brokered convention. If the Republicans can’t decide on a clear frontrunner by the convention, could we potentially see the White Knight riding in a little earlier than expected into Minneapolis/St. Paul this September?
This reminds me of what President Richard Nixon’s dirty tricks squad did in the 1972 election — weakening the candidates who threatened Nixon, like Senators Ed Muskie and Ted Kennedy, while strengthening the one they could most easily beat, Sen. George McGovern. Except this is coming from within the party, and is seemingly a more elegant process of controlled quantum reactions to render a weak field even weaker.
Somehow, though, I don’t see Newt Gingrich as the ultimate beneficiary of all this. I’m not a Republican, so I know nothing, but my instinct tells me that if the GOP establishment pulls itself together, it will settle on Fred Thompson; and if it doesn’t, the nominee will be Rudy Giuliani.
The thing that’s harder to see is what happens if Hillary manages to beat Obama in New Hampshire. What if the campaign between the two of them becomes a mutual-assured-destruction dance? Does Edwards benefit by default? Or does Al Gore — reportedly out of the race because he feared the Clinton machine — suddenly get inspired to jump into the race? Does John Kerry (who despises John Edwards) unleash his ego on the public again?
The point is, last night’s results didn’t merely change the respective positions of the existing candidates. The effect is potentially much deeper. The script might change far more than we imagine.