On the one side, ladies and gentlemen, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, and Elliott Abrams. On the other, Sarah Palin, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh. And Abrams' Drudge-hyped claim that Newt was once a Reagan-basher seems to have been the final straw. After all, what is this GOP election in 2011 all about if not replaying the fantasy of 1980 – without Reagan and without high inflation and without Carter? Putting Romney before Gingrich as the Reagan heir was just a mite too much for the Newties.
Palin's Facebook screed is a classic of the backlash genre. For her, all mainstream media is the same – which means Brian Ross and National Review are now in cahoots. And she is trying to reframe the race as one between the Tea Party base and the Republican Establishment. Somehow, a former Speaker who called the Ryan plan "right-wing social engineering" and pioneered the individual healthcare mandate is now the Tea Party insurgent. But this was never about issues; it was about identity and class. And that's what makes it so dangerous for the GOP. Money quote:
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. The questions need answers now. That is why this primary should not be rushed to an end. We need to vet this.
Pundits in the Beltway are gleefully proclaiming that this primary race is over after Florida, despite 46 states still not having chimed in. Well, perhaps it’s possible that it will come to a speedy end in just four days; but with these questions left unanswered, it will not have come to a satisfactory conclusion. Without this necessary vetting process, the unanswered question of Governor Romney’s conservative bona fides and the unanswered and false attacks on Newt Gingrich will hang in the air to demoralize many in the electorate. The Tea Party grassroots will certainly feel disenfranchised and disenchanted with the perceived orchestrated outcome from self-proclaimed movers and shakers trying to sew this all up.
That suggests to me that this is going to get even nastier, as long as Shelly can keep up the funding and Palin can keep up the attention. And here's Palin's definition of what's going on right now:
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 used now by both parties’ operatives with a complicit media egging it on. In fact, the establishment has been just as dismissive of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.
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.
Heres another wingnut:
From RNC head, to primaries, now the primary, the GOP establishment consistently uses all its power to stomp down any conservative. Conservatives are fast approaching a breaking point. The GOP believes it will be fine because it will be all Obama come November. They are wrong. Mitt Romney has gone from unlikeable, to detestable and some of us are not going to forget it simply because the GOP thinks it can blow dog whistles around Obama.
And here's Erickson:
The fix is in for Romney, which just means when he is crushed by Barack Obama a lot of Republicans will have a lot of explaining to do. Newt may not be able to win. But Romney sure as hell can’t beat Obama either if Newt can’t win. The problem remains — Gingrich supporters intrinsically know this to be so and are happy to die fighting. Romney’s supporters are still deluding themselves.
This is a level of rhetorical bile that didn't even occur in the Obama-Clinton dust-up. I don't know if it will give Newt a final wind beneath his wings. But it's possible. A new large sample auto-telephone poll this morning shows a dead heat – while most polls show a comfy Romney margin. But the establishment might have over-panicked a little and given the Newt-Palin forces a way back into the fight. That may weigh especially in the Florida panhandle. Who knows?
What we do know, I think, is that Newt will not bow out if he loses Florida and may go on a scorched earth Palinite crusade to stop Mitt on Super Tuesday. And what we also know is that Palin is fanning the flames. If Newt were to do better than expected in Florida, her clout as a king-maker soars. And the chance that she would lead a Tea Party revolt at the Convention grows.
I mean what if Newt and Romney are so damaged by the end of this that neither has a chance. Could Queen Esther return?
(Photo: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin speaks during the Republican Party of Florida's fundraising event at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort on November 3, 2011 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. About 800 people attended the fundraiser to listen to Palin speak, along with Governor Rick Scott and the Attorney General Pam Bondi. By Roberto Gonzalez/Getty Images.)