Can Newt make a comeback?

He's already done it twice, but can Gingrich come back a third time?

Newt Gingrich may be down, but he's not out yet. Although he trailed in Nevada by 25 per cent of the vote -- making it his second consecutive big loss -- don't write the moral conservative off yet.

Gingrich is hanging on for Super Tuesday on 6 March where 10 states vote at once and almost a fifth of all delegates are decided. The Bible belt is better territory for the Republican candidate and many conservative Southern states like Georgia and Alabama are likely to vote in his favour; the former being his onetime home state with 76 delegates on offer. There are 437 delegates up for grabs in total on Super Tuesday -- a marked contrast to Nevada's 28 and Florida's 50.

In order to hold on until Super Tuesday, Gingrich needs to work on attacking Mitt Romney, capitalising on the reservations many Southern Republicans have about him and his centrist record as governor of Massachusetts. In the Florida primary Newt's strongest region was the Florida Panhandle, which can be seen as a proxy for the Deep South. Moreover, he was also more popular with poorer voters, born-again Christians and evangelical voters -- important factors to remember when predicting how the Bible belt of America will vote. At a press conference in Nevada, Gingrich himself predicted that the conservative Southern states would never vote for a pro-gun control, pro-abortion Massachusetts moderate.

While Gingrich, who was outspent by Romney 5:1 in Florida, may have complained about Ron Paul and Rick Santorum remaining in the race and making it more difficult for him to consolidate the anti-Mitt vote, he may be thanking them in the run up to Super Tuesday. It is possible that both Santorum and Paul could win in caucus states that Romney has more sway in than Gingrich. Santorum is in good stead in Missouri and Minnesota, while Paul holds weight in Colorado.

Wins from Paul or Santorum would undoubtedly weaken Romney's position, thus enabling Newt to swoop in once again and paint himself as the only man who can boot Obama from the White House and ensure that Romney cannot paint his clinching of the Republican nomination as inevitable.

Importantly, Romney's victory in Nevada isn't the storming success he has made it out to be. Romney captured Nevada, which has a large proportion of Mormons, with around 43 per cent of the vote; much lower than the 51 per cent he received in his 2008 campaign. This may be due to his recent comments about not being concerned with the very poor -- a statement that has since been taken wildly out of context but one that Newt can surely use to sully his opponent.

There's no doubt that Newt will face an uphill battle up until Super Tuesday, particularly due to the fact that there are no debates scheduled until 22 February. The former Speaker has shone in the debates, using them as an opportunity to incite grassroots support and, importantly, attack frontrunner Mitt Romney. Many undecided voters warmed to Newt in the debates, especially his infamous rage at CNN's John King in South Carolina, seeing his aggression as the quality that would enable him to triumph over President Obama.

The more Newt can paint Romney as one of "them" as opposed to one of "us" due to his Mormonism and extraordinary wealth, the more chance he has of ensuring that the Republican nomination continues to be a race rather than a coronation. His means of doing this is through debate and it is not unlikely that he will request another with Romney before 22 February. The former House Speaker knows that he cannot lie low for a month and expect miracle success, and with the recent cartoonish blow of Donald Trump endorsing Romney, Gingrich needs to ensure that he remains in primetime news.

Similarly, in the run up to Super Tuesday Newt should outline more concrete policies on tax and national debt, rather than merely saying his conservative policies are strong and courageous as opposed to moderate Mitt's timid proposals. If he can do this he has a good chance of re-engaging the conservative base and proving himself as the only alternative to Romney and his cautious policies, which are unpopular with the Tea Party. Newt needs to talk less about the moon and develop a laser-focussed message targeted at the political and social right.

The former Speaker has vowed not to surrender until the Tampa convention and until then he must keep doing what he does best: fighting. There's no question that his comeback will be hard, but it's not impossible.

Don't count the underdog out just yet.

Daily Mail
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Who "speaks for England" - and for that matter, what is "England"?

The Hollywood producer Sam Gold­wyn once demanded, “Let’s have some new clichés.” The Daily Mail, however, is always happiest with the old ones.

The Hollywood producer Sam Gold­wyn once demanded, “Let’s have some new clichés.” The Daily Mail, however, is always happiest with the old ones. It trotted out Leo Amery’s House of Commons call from September 1939, “Speak for England”, for the headline on a deranged leader that filled a picture-free front page on David Cameron’s “deal” to keep Britain in the EU.

Demands that somebody or other speak for England have followed thick and fast ever since Amery addressed his call to Labour’s Arthur Greenwood when Neville Chamberlain was still dithering over war with Hitler. Tory MPs shouted, “Speak for England!” when Michael Foot, the then Labour leader, rose in the Commons in 1982 after Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands. The Mail columnist Andrew Alexander called on Clare Short to “speak for England” over the Iraq War in 2003. “Can [Ed] Miliband speak for England?” Anthony Barnett asked in this very magazine in 2013. (Judging by the 2015 election result, one would say not.) “I speak for England,” claimed John Redwood last year. “Labour must speak for England,” countered Frank Field soon afterwards.

The Mail’s invocation of Amery was misconceived for two reasons. First, Amery wanted us to wage war in Europe in support of Hitler’s victims in Poland and elsewhere and in alliance with France, not to isolate ourselves from the continent. Second, “speak for England” in recent years has been used in support of “English votes for English laws”, following proposals for further devolution to Scotland. As the Mail was among the most adamant in demanding that Scots keep their noses out of English affairs, it’s a bit rich of it now to state “of course, by ‘England’. . . we mean the whole of the United Kingdom”.

 

EU immemorial

The Mail is also wrong in arguing that “we are at a crossroads in our island history”. The suggestion that the choice is between “submitting to a statist, unelected bureaucracy in Brussels” and reclaiming our ancient island liberties is pure nonsense. In the long run, withdrawing from the EU will make little difference. Levels of immigration will be determined, as they always have been, mainly by employers’ demands for labour and the difficulties of policing the borders of a country that has become a leading international transport hub. The terms on which we continue to trade with EU members will be determined largely by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels after discussions with unelected bureaucrats in London.

The British are bored by the EU and the interminable Westminster arguments. If voters support Brexit, it will probably be because they then expect to hear no more on the subject. They will be sadly mistaken. The withdrawal negotiations will take years, with the Farages and Duncan Smiths still foaming at the mouth, Cameron still claiming phoney victories and Angela Merkel, François Hollande and the dreaded Jean-Claude Juncker playing a bigger part in our lives than ever.

 

An empty cabinet

Meanwhile, one wonders what has become of Jeremy Corbyn or, indeed, the rest of the shadow cabinet. The Mail’s “speak for England” leader excoriated him for not mentioning “the Number One subject of the hour” at PM’s Questions but instead asking about a shortage of therapeutic radiographers in the NHS. In fact, the NHS’s problems – almost wholly caused by Tory “reforms” and spending cuts – would concern more people than does our future in the EU. But radiographers are hardly headline news, and Corbyn and his team seem unable to get anything into the nation’s “any other business”, never mind to the top of its agenda.

Public services deteriorate by the day, George Osborne’s fiscal plans look increasingly awry, and attempts to wring tax receipts out of big corporations appear hopelessly inadequate. Yet since Christmas I have hardly seen a shadow minister featured in the papers or spotted one on TV, except to say something about Trident, another subject that most voters don’t care about.

 

Incurable prose

According to the Guardian’s admirable but (let’s be honest) rather tedious series celeb­rating the NHS, a US health-care firm has advised investors that “privatisation of the UK marketplace . . . should create organic and de novo opportunities”. I have no idea what this means, though it sounds ominous. But I am quite certain I don’t want my local hospital or GP practice run by people who write prose like that.

 

Fashionable Foxes

My home-town football team, Leicester City, are normally so unfashionable that they’re not even fashionable in Leicester, where the smart set mostly watch the rugby union team Leicester Tigers. Even when they installed themselves near the top of the Premier League before Christmas, newspapers scarcely noticed them.

Now, with the Foxes five points clear at the top and 7-4 favourites for their first title, that mistake is corrected and the sports pages are running out of superlatives, a comparison with Barcelona being the most improbable. Even I, not a football enthusiast, have watched a few matches. If more football were played as Leicester play it – moving at speed towards their opponents’ goal rather than aimlessly weaving pretty patterns in midfield – I would watch the game more.

Nevertheless, I recall 1963, when Leicester headed the old First Division with five games to play. They picked up only one more point and finished fourth, nine points adrift of the league winners, Everton.

 

Gum unstuck

No, I don’t chew toothpaste to stop me smoking, as the last week’s column strangely suggested. I chew Nicorette gum, a reference written at some stage but somehow lost (probably by me) before it reached print.

Editor: The chief sub apologises for this mistake, which was hers

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle