The editors of the National Review have some good news -- conservatives are unified in what policies they want enacted, and the White House is winnable -- but there's also some bad news: Republican voters are on the verge of nominating a guy who will fail at one or both those things. In 2007, the National Review endorsed Mitt Romney. Thursday, they can only say who not to vote for. Newt Gingrich is at the top of the please-god-no list.
The editors write:
Just a few months ago his campaign seemed dead after a series of gaffes and resignations. That Gingrich now tops the polls is a tribute to his perseverance, and to Republicans’ admiration for his intellectual fecundity. Both qualities served conservatives well in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Gingrich, nearly alone, saw the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress and worked tirelessly to bring it about...
Gingrich’s colleagues were, however, right to bring his tenure to an end. His character flaws -- his impulsiveness, his grandiosity, his weakness for half-baked (and not especially conservative) ideas -- made him a poor Speaker of the House. Again and again he combined incendiary rhetoric with irresolute action, bringing Republicans all the political costs of a hardline position without actually taking one. Again and again he put his own interests above those of the causes he championed in public.
The magazine's editor, Rich Lowry, writes a separate column detailing how Gingrich hasn't changed at all since the 1990s -- still selling books, still envisioning himself as America's professor and teaching college classes in office, still floating Dickensian policies like orphanages and 9-year-old janitors.
Despite the clarity of conservatives' vision -- agreement on defense, abortion, taxes, health care -- the magazine finds the candidates running to represent conservatives to be awfully B Team. Rick Perry? While Republicans "have not been known for their off-the-cuff eloquence in recent decades," the editors write, voters shouldn't pick a guy who'd "have to spend much of his time untying his own tongue." Michele Bachmann? She showed poor judgment in repeating rumors that vaccines cause mental retardation. Ron Paul? He flirts with 9/11 conspiracy theories. And that narrows the field of acceptable candidates down to a rather grim bunch: Romney, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum. The editors admit that each has problems: the first two can't connect with conservative voters, and Santorum has no executive experience. But like their fellow conservatives at the Weekly Standard, National Review's editors hold out hope that less than three weeks before voting begins, the current lineup will be "joined by new candidates."