Newtron bomb

    The stench from the smoking wreckage of Newt Gingrich’s nascent presidential campaign still stings the nostrils. Has any candidate, at any level of politics, ever suffered a staff implosion as severe as what he experienced yesterday? At last count there were 16 resignations, including the campaign manager, the press secretary, two top strategists, and two key advisers in Iowa and South Carolina. The only other candidate to be similarly humiliated (at least in my memory) was Florida Republican senatorial candidate Katherine Harris, whose batty behavior back in 2006 sparked the resignations of her chief political strategist, field operations director, campaign manager, press secretary, treasurer, pollster, media consultant, finance director, and the aide who dispensed bumper stickers. But even they didn’t all quit on the same day.It’s tempting to ignore staff shakeups, to dismiss them as inside baseball, as material of interest only to the most fervent political junkies. But yesterday’s demolition derby was quintessential Newt, a metaphor for the man and a eulogy for his candidacy. He still insists that his bid is alive and well, but losers always talk that way. He’s sounding a lot like the Iraqi spokesman, nicknamed Baghdad Bob, who insisted in April 2003 that Saddam Hussein was winning even as American troops poured into his capital city. (“There are no troops here! Never! They’re not at all!”)Newt, whose political career peaked in 1995, seemed to believe, for some inexplicable reason, that the normal presidential campaign rules (raise a lot of money, seed the grassroots, spend an inordinate amount of time in Iowa and South Carolina) did not apply to him. He seemed to believe that his alleged Big Brain and his supposed Big Ideas would bedazzle the voters and carry him through. So, while his beleaguered senior staffers labored to do spadework in early primary states, he and his wife decided to embark on a Mediterranean cruise. There was no money. There was no direction. Most importantly (and predictably), the candidate was totally undisciplined. That was always destined to be the key issue; as Newt himself remarked last month on Meet The Press, “One of the tests on this campaign trail is going to be whether I have the discipline and the judgment to be president. I think that’s a perfectly fair question.” So everybody walked out. Rich Galen, a Republican commentator who worked for Newt back in the ’90s, perhaps said it best today: “The staff was made up of campaign professionals who wanted to run a professional campaign. Gingrich and his wife wanted to campaign where, when, and how they wanted.” As a result, Galen wryly remarked, “The Gingrich campaign was like an airliner with no wings, no engines, and no landing gear. It was a different kind of airliner.”It’s hard to say which rival benefits most from yesterday’s Newtron bomb. There isn’t any sizable Newt constituency up for grabs, because he never really had one anyway. A lot of fiscal conservatives think he sold out to Bill Clinton during the ’90s, and a lot of social conservatives dismiss him as a Beltway blowhard with too many wives. But Newt still insists (sing it, Baghdad Bob) that he’s in it to win it, that he will show up next Monday night for a CNN debate, that this weekend his campaign “begins anew,” that he will soldier on “very intensely.” In translation: “Slather me with butter, because I am toast.”——-Yesterday, while recounting the past verbal misadventures of Bachmann campaign consultant Ed Rollins, I forgot to mention a classic from May 1995. Early that month, he joined the Bob Dole presidential campaign. Within days, he publicly referred to a pair of Jewish Democratic congressmen as “Hymie boys.” Then came his ritual apology (“My lack of sensitivity is totally inexcusable”), and by the end of the month, he was off the Dole campaign.Greta Van Susteren, the Fox News host, advised Michele Bachmann in a blog post yesterday that it would be “better to dump Rollins now than to carry his baggage.” And hey, Rollins could always find alternative employment. I hear Newt Gingrich has openings.——-New York, New York. Ground zero for America’s most carnivorous media. If Anthony Weiner can survive there, he can survive anywhere.Today’s New York Post cover story trumpets the news that Weiner got his wife pregnant. The headline: Pop Goes the Weasel

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