Well, it’s been a while since I made my “prophesy” back on Dec 3, 2011 that Gingrich would be the Republican nominee. 
Since then it’s been an amazing ride. I’m sure Seth R (who I have a bet with) thought he had me pretty much beat even just a few days ago back when Mitt Romney was ‘inevitable’ (for the nth time) and was going to walk away with wins in all three of the first primaries — a feat no Republican nominee has ever done.
So I want to quote myself from what I wrote back here on Dec 8th in a follow on post:
I suppose the reason I disagree with the experts is that I feel that these experts aren’t taking the true prejudice 1/3 of Evangelicals feel towards Mormons into consideration because they don’t really understand it. They are still thinking in terms of normal rational behavior, not prejudice behavior. To me, it seems obvious that these experts keep getting it wrong precisely because they don’t understand the level of prejudice that exists. So, for example, they keep predicting that Romney is ‘inevitable’ or what have you.
But Romney was inevitable! Seth R put up a link to this article explaining (back then) why the Republican power brokers would not back him and how it was impossible to win without them. Gingrich is wrong across the board. He’s a bad person, a bad candidate, a bad example of social conservativism, a bad everything really. There should be no way he could get the nomination.
So here were are, on the eve of the South Carolina election and I thought it would be fun to do a chronological run through of headline news articles (on Yahoo) I’ve collected since my last post — especially in the last week — to see how the tone of the news changes so quickly.
Dec 22: Gingrich Says Gay Marriage Supporters Should Vote for Obama. Okay, not really all that relevant, but I thought it was ironic.
Jan 14: Evangelical leaders try to unite behind Rick Santorum. By Jan 14 Evangelical leaders were facing the realities of a Mormon in the white house. Romney had “won” Iowa and New Hamshire. Gingrich looked like he was down for the count. The one silver lining was that the completely unelectable Rick Santorum did pretty well in Iowa (we know now, probably “winning” it). So they decide to use their influence to get behind Santorum.
Jan 14: Elite Social Conservatives Vote to Give Rick Santorum Consensus Support. An interesting fact about this article is that Romney doesn’t even come up as a possibility for support. Further, there are attempts to pressure everyone but one candidate (though there is disagreement over who that should be) to consolidate the anti-Mormon vote.
Jan 15: Santorum targets Romney in South Carolina. Santorum, a Catholic, recieves the endorsement of Evangelicals as per last article. Now he’s trying to make something of it.
Jan 17: Romney makes overtures to social conservatives in South Carolina. Love this line: “In what was billed as a political forum but felt more like an old-fashioned tent revival, Mitt Romney did his very best to fit in.”
Jan 17: Dirty Tricks in Santorum Vote. It turns out that the ‘endorsement’ of Santorum by Evanglical leaders was a dishonest lie. Actually the whole forum was a setup for Santorum that went awry when they couldn’t get the Gingrich supports to change their mind. Finally, a victory for Santorum is forced by taking a revote right after some Gingrich supports had to leave, thereby creating the illusion of backing for Santorum.
Jan 18: Newt Gingrich to South Carolina: You’re my (and America’s) only hope. As of this article, Gingrich is portrayed as desperately asking for support, but the news media is still not taking him seriously. He’s down by 10 points and he knows he’s out of the race if the anti-Romney (i.e. anti-Mormon) vote doesn’t decide to consolidate around him instead of Rick Santorum. I have to hand it to Newt here: without saying the word “Mormon” even once, he managed to remind the anti-Mormon vote that literally anyone would be better than a Mormon in the White House.
Oh, and a quick reminder that people have been saying Romney can’t win the Evangelical vote for years.
Good quote from back then:
A Pew Research study released on Thursday showed that Romney has the most potential appeal of any candidate in the GOP field for 2012. But the key word there is “potential.” Twenty-five percent of all voters say they would be less likely to support a candidate who is Mormon, like Romney. And a full third of white evangelicals express an aversion to Mormon candidates.Perhaps the most damaging attacks were not anonymous, but from religious leaders who simply told their flocks that Romney was not a Christian and that they could not vote for a Mormon.
Jan 19: After ‘open marriage’ allegations, Gingrich says ‘I have been very open about mistakes I have made’. See also: ‘Nightline’ Nukes Newt. Gingrich’s second wife told all. Seems Newt wanted an open marriage. Newt successfully turns this into a slam on the media — for now.
Jan 19: Romney nosediving in South Carolina as Gingrich surges. Rick Perry drops out of the race and — suprise! — endorses Gingrich. Notice, however, that Romney is still up by 10 points by this date and still expected to win. It’s just not going to be a strong win any more.
Jan 20: What if Newt Gingrich wins South Carolina? What’s this? Gingrich might actually end up winning outright?
Jan 20: Newt Gingrich is again the favorite to win the South Carolina Republican primary. And Gingrich retakes the lead in South Carolina! Wow, that was fast!
Gingrich is doing exactly what Romney hoped he wouldn’t or couldn’t: consolidate social conservative voters in South Carolina, previously split between Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Romney has never polled above 50 percent in the state and, even at his highest likelihood to win, was expected to win by a plurality, not a majority. Now that Rick Perry is out and Santorum has flatlined, Gingrich has succeeded in cobbling together the anti-Romney forces, enough to possibly win outright.
And so Newt, riding the Evangelical vote, retakes the lead. With him now poised to win South Carolina, it’s looking more and more like he might actually have a shot at the nomination — despite a lack of Republican leader support (well, other than outright bigots like Rick Perry.)
And finally, this article says it all: Evangelical Dilemma in South Carolina: An Adulter or a Mormon?
I’ve seen it among my own kin, spread across the Carolinas and Tennessee, where certain ones among them have begun weighing the possibility that while the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is indeed a cult, maybe some Mormons can be Christians, and maybe the former Governor of Massachusetts is such a person.
My Updated Take
So given the fact that I’m betting Seth R, I am not allowed to change my opinion at this time until this thing has run it’s course. But then again, part of the fun of making a (hopefully false) prophecy is making it so early that every one thinks your crazy.
And, of course, prophesies are usually wrong. Geoff prophesied that we could take it to the bank that Ron Paul was going to win Iowa. Let’s face it, prophesies like this are more for fun then to be serious — though in both mine and Geoff’s case, I think it’s fair to say that ‘we had a point we were making’ as well.
So will my prophesy yet fail? We shall see.
Here is my updated take.
First, I clearly got one thing wrong. Implicit in my prophecy was the assumption that “The Third” of Evangelicals disliked Mormons so much that they would be a) willing to consolidate around anyone that isn’t a Mormon, no matter how icky they were, b) that they would in fact consolidate and not split up their limited resources.
At the heart of my prophesy is the understanding that the bigotted anti-Mormon vote is only 1/3 of the Evangelicals. It’s too small to force Romney out solely on his religion (though they’d like to do just that.) But, if you think about it, it’s a larger group then the solid 25% that have supported Romney through thick and thin. My assumption — and it’s been false so far — was that you’d see that vote consolidate around Gingrich. Clearly — at least so far — there has been a fair amount of consolidation around Santorum as well, thereby splitting up the anti-Mormon vote and paving the way for a Romney victory.
But the day is young.
It probably made political sense to see if Rick Santorum or someone who isn’t a double cheating, open marriage sort of cad might be good enough to consolidate around. Iowa crowned Rick Santorum with the anti-Newt/anti-Romney vote. So long as Santorum stays in the race, it’s possible that anyone that just can’t bring themselves to vote for Newt will vote for Santorum and will pull off a victory for Romney.
The Santorum Factor
So the question I want to know is whether or not Rick Santorum is going to drop out after he loses badly in South Carolina (ah! another [false?] prophecy!) I am starting to think he might not. That makes this all the tougher for the anti-Mormon vote. How many of them will just hold their noses and vote for Newt and tell themselves “yeah, but he joined the Catholic Church since then”? And how many of them will refuse to vote for Newt and just vote their conscious (even though they know it means Romney will get the nomination) for Rick Santorum?
In short, Romney’s best friend is a man named Rick. If I were Romney I’d get one of my Super PACS to back Rick Santorum about right now to keep him from getting too discouraged. It’s almost a guarenteed victory for Romney if Santorum sticks it out and continues to pull half of the anti-Mormon vote.
Now, of course, Rick Santorum must know all this. Some think Rick Santorum is in fact an anti-Mormon bigot (see comment #17 below — this is a partial retraction on my part). But he’s more than that! He’s also a man of religious zeal and principles. And men of principles do not go against everything they believe just to avoid something else they dislike that they have no control over. Thus I’d say there is a fair chance Santorum is not going to back down even if it means a victory for Romney. (He sounds to me like he might even be more comfortable with Romney then Gingrich at times.)
The second factor my prophecy doesn’t really take into consideration is the fall out that will come from the interview with Gingrich’s second wife and her comments about him wanting an open marriage. Newt did a fantastic job turning that into a slam on the media. But let’s face it, most Evangelicals voters are women (slight majority from what I understand) and those are the very voters most likely to think “I just can’t vote for a man like Newt — even if I have to put a servant of Satan into the White House.” So we may see part of “The Third” bolting and voting for anyone-but-Newt.
In short, I think a good case can be made that some percentage of the anti-Mormon vote is likely to vote for Romney anyhow — despite his being a secret servant of Satan. How much of “The Third” will do this? I’m not sure. Probably not much. But even, say, 10-20% would might mean a Romney victory.
Still, I’m duty bound to stick with my prophecy: Newt Gingrich will be the Republican nominee for 2012. You can take it to the bank.
 In Popperian epistemology the difference between a “prediction” and a “prophecy” is whether or not it’s based on sound statistical principles. I’m doing the un-sound version. Thus it’s a prophecy, not a prediction.