By Rachel Brody |
"We can't allow our nominee to be the issue in the general election," said former Sen. Rick Santorum on Tuesday night, referring to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. What Santorum didn't mention is that Gingrich has already become an issue. He's not only his own problem, but he's also becoming one for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.
At the most basic level, Gingrich is unelectable. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week showed that while "Newt Gingrich leads Mitt Romney among Republicans…he is the weakest of the Republican candidates tested against President Obama," losing in the match-up by "a whopping 18 points, 55-37 percent."
Gingrich is also unlikable. The same poll found that 48 percent of Americans held negative views of Gingrich. And even before the devastating attacks in the run-up to Florida's primary, Gallup found that while Obama and Romney have "similar intensity scores among national adults, of -3 and -1, respectively," Gingrich has a score of -20. They also noted that in the last month, "Americans have become more intensely negative in their evaluations of Newt Gingrich (from a score of -11 to -20)…and are less intensely negative about Obama (from -11 to -3)."
Gingrich is hurting the Republican Party. Less than six years ago, Americans ousted Republican majorities from both chambers of Congress, starkly rejecting President George W. Bush's leadership and his party's conservative agenda. It's only been in the last few years that the GOP has begun to recover its standing, and as Gallup pointed out last fall, Americans now hold equally negative views of the two major political parties. Republicans cannot afford to let Gingrich undermine the GOP's brand as the party's "standard-bearer."
Even though the competition may be sharpening Romney's debate skills and political instincts, as Ron Fournier points out, "Romney's negative rating with independents jumped 13 points in the past month and 20 points since November."
In the end, Romney was right to go all out in ruthless fashion in an attempt to get this ugly intraparty battle over as quickly as possible. By ignoring Sarah Palin, Romney showed that while he may hail from Massachusetts, he's no John Kerry. If Republicans want to defeat President Obama, those still hoping to fall in love would be wise to now fall in line.
About Lara Brown Professor at Villanova University
Judson Phillips Founder of Tea Party Nation
Doug Heye Former Communications Director for the Republican National Committee
Ron Bonjean Former Chief of Staff for the Senate Republican Conference
Krystal Ball MSNBC Contributor and Former Democratic Nominee for Congress in the First District of Virginia