Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gingrich's Campaign Off to a Rocky Start on Meet The Press

As you can see from Gingrich's Profile, he has medium perceived electability and medium perceived conservatism. His path to victory rests with leveraging his rhetorical skill (particularly during debates) to boost his perceived electability and conservatism. Gingrich appeared on Meet The Press last Sunday for the first major interview of his campaign, and he succeeded in doing precisely the opposite.

Gingrich criticized the Congressional Republicans' proposed budget, prompting the obvious negative response from Republican leaders. Even worse, he made some questionable remarks about the "individual mandate," the most hated component of Obamacare. When Gingrich was asked about his former support of the individual mandate, he suggested that he still supported some "variation" of it. After Gingrich was blasted in conservative media, he released a video stating he was unequivocally opposed to the individual mandate.

Gingrich's conservatism was already under fire, particularly due to his previous support of a cap and trade system. Gingrich had made a commercial with Nancy Pelosi while doing publicity in favor of cap and trade, and the resulting photograph of Gingrich sitting next to Pelosi will undoubtedly be plastered across every anti-Gingrich attack ad for the rest of the 2012 primary.

Perceived conservatism is not the only area where Gingrich is vulnerable. Earlier this year, Gingrich got negative press attention when he appeared to flip-flop on whether he supported intervening in Libya. Given his conflicting statements on the individual mandate, he may be painted as a flip-flopper--or simply dishonest.

Gingrich can only win New Hampshire by positioning himself to the right of Mitt Romney. There's no room to Romney's left. Nor can he even occupy the same space as Romney: Those who agree with Romney's views are more likely to support Romney than Gingrich because Romney is the "next in line" and has higher perceived electability.

The silver lining for Gingrich is that because fewer people are paying attention in the early months of the primary, gaffes have less impact. But they're still dangerous, and Gingrich needs to use his time wisely. As mentioned in the Profile, Gingrich needs to become a more disciplined campaigner. So far, there is no sign that he has. Elephant Watcher calculates that Gingrich has a 3% chance of winning the nomination.