His bid is dividing her fans, some of whom object to his character problems and big-government tendencies. Beware, Tea Partiers.
When Newt Gingrich proclaimed in early December that he would be the GOP nominee, I argued that his success would doom the Tea Party. How could the movement survive a standard-bearer who once favored bank bailouts, No Child Left Behind, an individual mandate in health care, a guest-worker program, the costly prescription-drug benefit, and the nomination of Harriet Miers? Or a politician who lobbied for Freddie Mac? Tea Partiers once pledged that if they had their way, the GOP would never again have as its champion a federal-government-enlarging, entitlement-expanding Bush Republican, nor a career politician who sells influence to D.C. insiders. Elevating such a man would split the coalition's earnest reformers from its tribal partisans.
As ever, Sarah Palin failed to heed my advice. In South Carolina, she urged voters to cast a ballot for the former House Speaker. And on her Facebook page Friday, she attacked his critics in "the GOP establishment" for employing against him the always dreaded "tactics of the left."
...This whole thing isn't really about Newt Gingrich vs. Mitt Romney. It is about the GOP establishment vs. the Tea Party grassroots and independent Americans who are sick of the politics of personal destruction... Newt is an imperfect vessel for Tea Party support, but in South Carolina the Tea Party chose to get behind him instead of the old guard's choice. In response, the GOP establishment voices denounced South Carolinian voters with the same vitriol we usually see from the left when they spew hatred at everyday Americans "bitterly clinging" to their faith and their Second Amendment rights. The Tea Party was once again told to sit down and shut up and listen to the "wisdom" of their betters. We were reminded of the litany of Tea Party endorsed candidates in 2010 who didn't win. Well, here's a little newsflash to the establishment: without the Tea Party there would have been no historic 2010 victory at all...
I have great concern about the GOP establishment trying to anoint a candidate without the blessing of the grassroots and all the needed energy and resources we as commonsense constitutional conservatives could bring to the general election... Now, I respect Governor Romney and his success. But there are serious concerns about his record and whether as a politician he consistently applied conservative principles and how this impacts the agenda moving forward.
How dumb does she think her Facebook followers are? Everyone paying attention understands that Gingrich himself is engaged in "the politics of personal destruction" as much as his opponents or the GOP establishment or the super PACs running attack ads in the Snow Bird State. And "serious concerns" have been raised about whether Gingrich has "consistently applied conservative principles." It's perfectly fine for Palin to prefer Gingrich to Romney. What rankles is her disingenuous pose as a neutral arbiter of fair play when she's clearly an advocate for the candidate who has said he'd find her a prominent place in his administration.
Distasteful as it is when she abuses the trust of her fans, there is a silver lining: the debate raging in the comments on her Facebook post is a small window into the arguments with which Tea Partiers are wrestling. What follows isn't a random sampling of movement opinion. But it is a single data point supporting my prediction that Gingrich's attributes are tearing the Tea Party apart. Along with the Palin Facebook page readers urging her to endorse Gingrich, or to run herself, there are many dissenters.
Here are some of them:
Patrice's HomeschoolPage: Sorry, Sarah. This Mama Grizzly supports Rick Santorum. One thing I learned well from the TEA Party is to vote my principles, not the most likely to win. The ONLY candidate still standing whose values I share is Rick Santorum. I'll not cast a vote for any other, even if that means another 4 years of Obama. I have someone much higher than the GOP to answer for if I vote contrary to my beliefs. I'm sorry to see that members of the TEA Party no longer practice what they preached.
Angela Allen-Thompson: Palin, you have an agenda and a bias against Romney. How can you be so color blind to the same kinds of tactics you describe as destructive coming from the Gingrich campaign. Besides, the fact that you have already been backing a candidate since SC has shattered any credibility you have of giving an unbiased opinion, despite the faux objective tone you masquerade under. You are still a well-respected opinion leader in the GOP, but this kind of one-sided, blatantly hypocritical writing only depletes whatever capital you have left in the party.
Morgan Wheeler Boone: Can't vote for a person with the personal ethics of Newt. I thought we conservatives were for values. He walked out on two wives, without even a lame excuse. He broke two sets of marriage vows, then asks us to trust him? Sarah, its hypocritic of conservatives to scorn Bill Clinton, then claim Gingrich is OK.
John McClung: Do you want a Big Government Bush Republican that believes in man-made global warming, amnesty for illegal immigrants and taking money from Fannie and Freddie to be a "historian"? Then vote for Newt. I would rather have the guy that made his money from the private sector and will cut spending. Sorry Sarah, still love you, but I disagree with you on this one.
Zette Media: As a social conservative, Newt Gingrich makes my skin crawl. A thrice married, two-time adulterer is really going to carry the banner of family values? Really, Ms Palin? Furthermore, how did the man who endorsed Dede Scozzafava just two years ago - opposing one of the original Tea Party candidate, Doug Hoffman - become a Tea Party favorite? Oh. And global warming with Pelosi, "social engineering" re: Ryan plan, etc. Just in the past few years.
Ilona English: Sarah you disappointment me. NEWT is a RINO, LIAR , REPEAT ADULTERER who will never win the nomination and will never be President. What's coming down on him now - WAS HIS OWN DOING.
Christine Espinosa: No offense Sarah but I think there's 2 playing that game. Newt is not exactly a small gov't guy. I am a Mitt fan and understand if folks don't like that, but why wouldn't you support Rick Santorum? Seems to me he fits a "tea party" image far better than big gov't Newt, that has to mention reagan every other word to convince us he actually is "reagan" like. Give me a break.
Hayley Payne: In 08, I liked you. Now, endorsing the guy that spoke out about a moon colony last night? You're off your rocker, lady. Newt's a creep & a liar. He had his chance in Washington & muffed it. Just like you had your chance@vp & muffed it.
Jonathan Goodwin: Newt has absolutely nothing in common with TEA Party principles. For him to garner any TEA Party support shows just how well the movement has be hijacked. His past actions speak much louder than his current rhetoric. He's not even in the race to win -- he fails to even qualify for 564 delegates. Mathematically, it's a near impossibility for him to win the nomination.
Tina Cubbon: no no.. I'm sorry I can't be quiet. You say Mitt's values as a conservative are a concern? Yet you back someone who cheated on his twice, not one wife but TWO. He was fined $300k for being unethical. And then he was asked to step down as speaker of the house. Is this what you consider conservative values? If you allow Newt a pass and say he's asked God for forgiveness then why can't Mitt change from being pro-choice to pro-life? I used to be pro-choice does that make me less conservative? When I was younger I voted for Clinton too.. does that make me less of a Conservative now? No, Sarah I fear the problem with Mitt is because he's a Mormon and you as a "Christian" don't think Mormons are Christian. Does he judge you for your family values, or your daughters? I'm angry with you.. I expected more from you. But, you have shown your true colors. If you think Newt can get the Ind vote you are WRONG. I know a great deal of Republicans that are angry that Newt is even running. How can you support a man that has the ethics of a snake? I'm really confused.
Dorothy Straub Noonan: You stated once in the middle there that Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are both been dismissed by the establishment and media, but it seems you are guilty of the same. Why is it only a choice between the two? Sounds like a fallacy to me. Seems to me that there are still FOUR in the race! Why is it that the two farthest from Tea Party principals are the only two choices anyone wants to acknowledge?
Bill Steward: I agree with you when you're against the GOP Establishment but I will never agree with you on supporting Newt... Newt is just as dirty and corrupt as Romney and twice as dangerous... I can't imagine why you'd support him over Santorum.. It makes no sense to me...
Mike Morton: Newt Gingrich is PLAIN and Simple a Big governement Progressive. There is tape out there of him clearly saying that he wants to expand the state dept alone by 50% ?? Character Matters he has very little.
Brian W. Schoeneman: The Republican establishment who fought Reagan in the 70s are all, for the most part, dead. This establishment/anti-establishment rhetoric is inherently divisive and it harms the part. It's also simply not true. Gingrich is being attacked because he all to often engages in the same kind of Saul Alinsky tactics he claims are being used against him. Attacking Romney for having "swiss bank accounts" is no different than attacking the President for having a "Kenyan" culture. Gingrich's attack on Romney and Bain Capital were right out of the left's playbook. Limbaugh himself said so. I wish the Governor would take her blinders off and see Newt for who he is - he's no Ronald Reagan. And he's definitely no Sarah Palin.
Jeff McNeal: So let me get this straight. It's "okay" for Newt to throw Paul Ryan under the bus and decry "Right Wing social engineering", attack free market capitalism, propose a moon colony when we're 16 trillion in debt, but he's supposed to be immune from criticism for taking Nancy Reagan's words out of their full context to make it sound like she was speaking specifically of Newt and not the entire Republican congress at the time? Sheesh. BOTH sides are engaging in this, INCLUDING Newt. Sarah, you've jumped the shark. Bring on the flames.
Wally Wagner: Come on Sarah. I can't believe you and Todd decided to support Gingrich. His morals are in the basement and he will say anything. Sure, he comes up with some grandios ideas but many of them are nonsensical. And, to say the Gingrich detractors are using tactics of the left without pasting the same label on Newt is rediculous. You are above the column you just penned and I think you should make a retraction.
Randolph Lee: Governor Palin, I've attended Tea Party rallies in St. Paul (multiple) and Memphis. I've spent years defending you from those who would marginalize your accomplishments. And on a personal note, my son (Trisomy 21 and autistic) and I enjoy looking at pictures of Trig. But I'm so discouraged by the support you gave Newt in SC. The one of the original candidates (beyond Paul) who simply cannot win in Nov, and will be a huge drag on all GOP candidates down-ticket. We need to rally around a candidate, according to the Buckley ruleset: Nominate the most conservative candidate who can win. Please support Governor Romney. We've reached the tipping point. To not rally now would yield more intraparty bloodletting. Thanks Sarah.
Brian Gruner: I am shocked that Sarah and so many others in the Tea Party have endorsed Newt. Doesn't anyone stand up for their values anymore? He claims to be a Progressive with his own lips and the anti-Capitalism he has been spewing during the last few weeks is appalling! Santorium is the only Conservative on the stage. He doesn't have any baggage. He absolutely epitomizes the Tea Party! Why is everyone overlooking that?
Norman Kent: Wow! Sarah Palin, Bill O'reilly and others are showing their true colors!! They're Tea Party/Conservative Imposters. To say Gingrich, a 20 yr member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is NOT an establishment candidate is to say that the Kettle is NOT black. To have so many so- called conservatives come out in support for Newt shows me that the Establishment is truly afraid of losing control. Newt has been an insider from day one; don't you recall the anti-American NAFTA treaty that Newt helped to pass? If Romney were an Establishment candidate, he would have been nominated over CFR man McCain for the 2008 election.
Steve Miniea: voting Newt or Romney is just like Obama - they ALL supported TARP ... look at their records - if you support good 'ole crony banker capitalism - either of the 3 will do .... c'mon - do you really think either guy has the countries best interest at heart? one is worth over 200 mil and the other grabbed 1.6 mil off freddie mac during the housing mess .... these are the best to lead our country? do u really think they'll cut spending - really??
Sean Kearn: The only reason Newt is considered someone who is not part of the GOP establishment is because they kicked him out when he was their leader back in the 90's. I have no faith that Newt will keep to his newly found principles of conservatism - especially when every problem he now sees can supposedly be solved with another big government project. If the words of today do not match the actions of yesterday, those words mean less than nothing. Unlike 2008, I will vote for the candidate of MY choice and with a clear conscious. No more promises, no more slick talk, no more RINOs!
Noelle C Campbell: Sarah, I am very disappointed in your tacit approval of Newt. If there is a "Tea Party" or "Conservative" running in this race, it certainly isn't Newt. He has taken all sides of all issues. At least Santorum was consistent, is not been proven corrupt again and again. I'm starting to think you are part of the 'establishment' too.
Joe Davis: Sarah, i am about as conservative as they get... and i cant stand what Newt is. As a pastor he disgusts me, as a conservative, i see right through his master manipulation of religious conservatives. In fact he will do and say anything to get power cause thats all Newt ever wanted. I respect you but you are 100% dead wrong. Stop it!
Ken Carroll: Sorry Sarah, love you but you were not there, on the hill when newt was speaker. I was. The critics are correct. Not an idiological "tea party VA establishment" thing. He's a meglomaniac with severe ADHD syndrome and not particularly conservative, except situationally.
This is the effect Gingrich has on the Tea Party. And no matter whether Palin is thinking about her country, her party, or herself, she has made a huge strategic error by supporting his bid for the nomination.
Image credit: Reuters