The GOP's latest surprise front-runner, Newt Gingrich, told a South Carolina radio station this morning, "I don't claim to be the perfect candidate, I just claim to be a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney and a lot more electable than anybody else." That represents not only Gingrich's most direct attack on Romney to date, but also what appears to be his elevator pitch to GOP voters. But is it true? Let's examine these claims one at a time:
Newt Gingrich is "a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney": Gingrich set a pretty low bar for himself here, and yet his passage of this low bar is still fairly dubious. As we've written before, Gingrich has a lengthy history of holding what would currently be considered unconservative positions on issues such as cap and trade, global-warming science, the health-insurance mandate, and the Paul Ryan budget plan. Unlike Romney (or Current Romney at least), he supports an immigration plan that many conservatives believe is tantamount to "amnesty." And regarding the values of social conservatives, Gingrich is a thrice-married, two-time adulterer. So is Gingrich "a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney"? At the risk of sounding overly Clintonian, we guess it depends on your definition of "a lot." According to ours? No, he's not.
Newt Gingrich is "a lot more electable than anybody else": If Gingrich is the most electable GOP candidate, why do the Obama campaign and the DNC focus almost exclusively on tearing down Mitt Romney — even today, as Gingrich sits atop the polls? More quantitatively, why does Gingrich trail President Obama by an average of 6.8 percent in head-to-head matchups, according to a Real Clear Politics average of recent polling, while Romney only trails by 1.5 percent?