The nation’s leading conservative publications are lining up to bash Newt Gingrich, even while they keep their distance from his top rival Mitt Romney.
The National Review, the movement’s flagship publication for decades, came out with a stinging editorial titled “Winnowing The Field” on Wednesday in which they essentially endorsed anyone but Gingrich, warning that his nomination would be a general election disaster.
“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,” they wrote. “Again and again he combined incendiary rhetoric with irresolute action, bringing Republicans all the political costs of a hardline position without actually taking one.”
The editorial mentions in passing that they’re not fans of Rick Perry or Ron Paul either, but the editors barely touched on any candidate’s individual qualifications, making clear that their primary goal is simply stopping Gingrich at all costs. They even ended with a dig at his infidelity.
“We will render further judgments in the weeks to come as the candidates continue to make their cases and are, just perhaps, joined by new candidates,” they wrote. “At the moment we think it important to urge Republicans to have the good sense to reject a hasty marriage to Gingrich, which would risk dissolving in acrimony.”
The same day, the Washington Examiner endorsed Romney, which was somewhat of a shock given that several of its columnists have been extremely critical. Recently, the candidate faced a tough line of questions at a meeting with their editorial board.
“The Washington Examiner believes Romney can defeat Obama, but Gingrich cannot,” the editors wrote. “And Romney the businessman is far better suited to the nation’s highest office — by temperament, experience, and cast of mind — than Gingrich the consummate Washington insider.”
The lack of any discernible bandwagon effect around Gingrich among prominent national conservatives is also glaring: no big name Republicans have announced their support even as he’s surged to first place in dozens of national and state polls.
One exception: Rudy Giuliani, who’s been dinging Romney in his media appearances. But it’s unclear how much this represents support for Gingrich versus, say, old grudges. Romney and Giuliani fought a biter presidential primary contest in 2008.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.