TV Pundits, Left and Right, Insist Gingrich Cannot Win, Would Drag Down Entire Party in Fall

Given his high unfavorable rating, Newt Gingrich “cannot win a national election,” MSNBC’s very liberal host Lawrence O’Donnell insisted early Saturday night when it became clear Gingrich would win the South Carolina primary, “it’s impossible.” O’Donnell’s assessment, however, is held beyond left-wingers animating MSNBC shows.  

Saturday night, Fox News veteran Brit Hume asserted: “Republicans in Congress will be terrified to run with this man for fear they will lose the House and the Senate.” Sunday morning on ABC, George Will imagined “people are waking up who are running for office as Republicans – from dog-catcher to Senate – and they’re saying, ‘good God, Newt Gingrich might be at top of this ticket.’”

Over on NBC’s Meet the Press, nominal conservative Joe Scarborough announced “Republicans are panicked in Washington, DC, for good reason.” Minutes later, Republican strategist Mike Murphy contended: “Newt Gingrich cannot carry in a general election a swing state that were made of feathers. This is a fact of politics.” 

Earlier on that program, David Gregory presented Gingrich with the electability issue the media make every time a conservative rises against a more moderate alternative, reading to him from a newspaper story titled, “The winner in South Carolina was Barack Obama,” which quoted an un-named Republican who supports Romney as warning: “Newt means losing 45 states.”

Fox News Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume, just before FNC wrapped-up coverage at 10 PM EST Saturday night:

There will be more to the case to be made against Newt Gingrich as a possible nominee by Republican office holders, especially those in the House and the Senate, across the country. And here’s why: From the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll – these numbers will change as they do from time to time –  this is favorability versus unfavorability. Mitt Romney, 45 favorable, 38 unfavorable. Ron Paul, 35 favorable, 40 unfavorable. Rick Santorum, 31 favorable, 34 unfavorable. Newt Gingrich 27 percent favorable, 56 percent unfavorable. Believe me, Republicans in Congress will be terrified to run with this man for fear they will lose the House and the Senate. They will begin to do what they can to try to defeat him because they fear he can't win the election and, moreover, he may drag many down to defeat with him. He has a lot of work to do to change their minds. I'm not sure he can.

George Will on ABC’s This Week:

Here’s a small sliver of a silver lining for Mitt Romney: All across the county this morning, people are waking up who are running for office as Republicans – from dog-catcher to Senate – and they’re saying, ‘good God, Newt Gingrich might be at top of this ticket.’ And that can’t make them happy.

MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough, on NBC’s Meet the Press, argued Gingrich isn’t a conservative:

I will tell you one reason he did not win last night. It wasn’t because he’s a conservative, because Newt’s not a conservative. He uses this resentment, the politics of grievance, to actually hide a record that you can really identify very quickly on Google. The remarkable thing, and this is why Republicans are panicked in Washington, DC , for good reason. Yeah, Mitt Romney supported an individual mandate. Newt Gingrich supported an individual mandate. Newt Gingrich supported cap and trade at one point. So did Mitt Romney. You can go down the list. Of course, you’ve got Ronald Reagan being brushed aside by Mitt Romney, but on this program, just a year ago, you had Newt Gingrich calling Paul Ryan a right-wing radical who’s engaged in social engineering. It is a mess out there. I think you’re going to hear more people like Bill Kristol, Erick Erickson talking about a brokered convention. If Newt Gingrich wins Florida, everything’s up for grabs.

Republican strategist Mike Murphy on Meet the Press:

What Newt is great at, is kind of playing piano of music of resentment in the Republican primary electorate; we’ve got a lot of mad people. But the reason the liquor sales in the last 24 hours have quadrupled in Washington, is truckloads of champagne are going over to the Pelosi office and hard whisky’s going to the Republican office because Newt Gingrich cannot carry in a general election a swing state that were made of feathers. This is a fact of politics.

In an interview earlier in the program, Meet the Press host David Gregory presented the electability argument to Newt Gingrich:

DAVID GREGORY: There are still real questions about your electability. Look at the most recent Fox News poll. Your favorability rating was still high at 56 percent. And there are those who have worked with you, those who know you in the establishment who describe you as radical or risky. This was something that Tom DeFrank wrote today in the New York Daily News, I want to put up a portion of it and have you respond: “‘The winner in South Carolina was Barack Obama,’ prominent Republican strategist glumly volunteered. ‘This plays perfectly into his hands. We've prolonged the process and that's good news for the President.’” It goes on: “‘Newt’s absolutely brilliant,’ recalled an admirer he negotiated with him in Congress. ‘He has 100 ideas, and 97 are real good, the other three will blow up the world.’ So look for more party leaders currently ‘neutral-for-Romney’ to get off the fence to inoculate against a Gingrich surge. ‘Newt means losing 45 states,’ a Mitt-leaning GOPer told the Daily News. ‘It would be a catastrophe for the country.’” So that kind of sums up that establishment view of Newt Gingrich as the nominee.

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, the establishment is right to be worried about a Gingrich nomination, because a Gingrich nomination means we will change things....

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center