On this Sunday's Meet the Press in which the panel segment looked like a version of Morning Joe redux, their favorite ConservaDem Harold Ford Jr. (D-Wall Street) was asked about Newt Gingrich's rise in the polls and whether he can manage to stay there or not after we've seen so many other candidates rise and fall as the potential alternative to Mitt Romney.
Ford goes on to describe Newt Gingrich as a "a serious thinker, he's a presenter in a very serious way" who has "been able to connect with conservative voters in ways that the others have not." Later in the segment, Ford actually goes on to explain some of why Gingrich should not be taken seriously as a candidate and that he's really good at just throwing red meat to the base with rhetoric that's long on flame throwing and too often short on facts. Ford also ignored the fact that Gingrich is a scam artist who's been ripping people off with his direct mail scheme and that he has no organization on the ground in most states.
A more honest assessment of why so many voters take Gingrich seriously was given by Paul Krugman a couple of weeks ago when he said this:
"It was his time," Krugman explained. "The Republican base does not want Romney and they keep on looking for an alternative. And Newt, although -- somebody said, 'He's a stupid man's idea of what a smart person sounds like.' But he is more plausible than the other guys they've been pushing up."
Transcript below the fold.
MR. GREGORY: Harold Ford, let's look at what's happening in Iowa. Here's our new polling, and we'll put it up on the screen. This is with Herman Cain still in the race. We then did it a second time by asking Cain supporters who their second choice would be, and then you could see how it gets redistributed. Gingrich up 2, Romney up 1, Paul up 2, Perry up 1, Bachmann up 2. So it's kind of all over the place, even though an endorsement, you would think, would go to Gingrich at this point.
FMR. REP. HAROLD FORD JR. (D-TN): All indications suggest that. You know, Gingrich has, to Mark's point, it's interesting how with the help of the endorsement last week, how he has emerged, not only as, as the, the, perhaps, the alternative to Romney, but as a very serious voice. If you think about those who've emerged in the past, Perry, Bachmann, Donald Trump and others, they're serious people in some ways, but they were not serious candidates. Gingrich, whether you like him or not, whether you disagree with him or not, and I disagree with him on most things or a lot of things, he's a serious thinker, he's a presenter in a very serious way, and he's been able to connect with conservative voters in ways that the others have not. If you're in a Mitt Romney campaign this morning, you have to be far more concerned than you've ever been about a candidate who might be able to at least substantively to stay around. The argument is that he may implode. I served with him in Congress, he certainly has a propensity to talk about himself in grandiose ways. It would be interesting to see how he conducts himself over the next 30 days...
MR. GREGORY: Right.
FMR. REP. FORD JR.: ...because this race happens, the first race is in 30 days now.
MR. GREGORY: Well, speaking of Newt Gingrich, that lack of discipline that he's talked about, the major moment this week is this theme of the good Newt vs. the bad Newt. The bad Newt is on display, some suggest, when there is arrogance, when there's sort of, you know, a lack of discipline in putting out ideas about kids and child labor laws. This is what he told ABC about his prospects.
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I want to be the nominee. I mean, it's very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee.
MR. GREGORY: Good Newt or bad Newt?
MR. HALPERIN: That would be bad Newt. He's, he is, he is unusual. He's a unique in American politics in the last 40 years. There's no one in either party who has been as around as long, both a very prominent figure, but also a grassroots organizer. And he--if this were going to be a six month campaign, if Newt had risen six months ago, I think the Romney people could be confident that, over time, those grandiose statements would catch up to him. I think a lot of people in the party now, they want a figure like Churchill. They want a big person who talks in bold ways to take on Barack Obama. I think the grandiose stuff gets laughed at in this city, but may actually help him in the next 30 days.
FMR. REP. FORD JR.: (Unintelligible)...himself to people. I mean, one of the advantages that he has that I think sometimes there are people in the country that don't really understand the magnitude and the monumental nature and stature of Churchill and Kennan and some of the others he compares himself to, so he gets away with it. The question though is whether he implodes on other fronts. I think the points he made about children and the points he's made in the past about the, the, the African-Americans and their role in our country and whether or not Obama fits some anti-colonial Kenyan model, those are the kinds of points I think, at the end of the day, serious people, and particularly independents, you know, are going to begin to ask, is he the kind of person we want negotiating with--our exit from Iraq? Is he the kind of leader we want representing us in rooms with Chinese business leaders? Is he the kind of leader we want in a room dealing with Russia? I think those are questions that ultimately Obama will raise.