By Happy Carlock |
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich can only beat President Obama if he articulates a compelling vision of our future to offer an alternative to the approach that President Obama has articulated.
To be sure, the president is deeply vulnerable, with 3/4 of the country saying America is off on the wrong track, the president having an approval rating of 43 percent—unprecedented for American presidents successfully seeking reelection—there is every reason to believe that Obama can, and arguably will, be beat. But only if Newt Gingrich, or whoever the Republican candidate is, overcomes a number of hurdles.
And Gingrich begins with a number of both general and specific disadvantages.
First, his party is less popular than the Democrats. Second, Gingrich has a substantial negative himself—a negative that rivals that of the president. And Speaker Gingrich has by his own acknowledgement, an extraordinary amount of baggage—both personal and political—that he brings to the table.
Still, presidential elections tend to be referendums on the incumbent, and voters need to be sure that the challenger is acceptable and offers an alternative approach. In the waning days of the 1980 election campaign, Ronald Reagan was able to do just that in his debate with Jimmy Carter. And Newt Gingrich, in a much more visible, and arguably more intense campaign season, will have a similar challenge.
Put directly, Gingrich will have to articulate his own 2012 vision of an opportunity society. How do we generate economic growth, reduce unemployment, reform entitlements, and bring America back internationally—those are the questions Gingrich must answer positively and affirmatively.
It will not be enough to attack Obama with increasingly extreme rhetoric. That will not be enough to beat him, notwithstanding the president's weakness—particularly with independents.
Rather, Speaker Gingrich, who has already argued for moderate policies on healthcare and immigration—arguing at times for the individual mandate and for a pathway to legalization for immigrants—will need to offer a compelling vision for our society that goes beyond harsh rhetoric and criticism of the president, to give people something that they are desperately lacking now: hope for the future.
About Douglas Schoen Democratic Campaign Consultant
Lara Brown Professor at Villanova University
Krystal Ball Former Democratic Nominee for Congress
Judson Phillips Founder of Tea Party Nation
Jamal Simmons Principal at The Raben Group