An Update on My Prophecy: Gingrich as Republican Nominee

Well, it’s been a while since I made my “prophesy” back on Dec 3, 2011 that Gingrich would be the Republican nominee. [1]

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!

Good quote:

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?

Favorite quote:

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.


[1] 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.

40 thoughts on “An Update on My Prophecy: Gingrich as Republican Nominee

  1. In my case, it was one of those failed fractional reserve banks that was bailed out by TARP. In any case, Romney will still win the nomination. South Carolina is an exception. I still predict Gingrich will fade eventually. He has way too many negatives. But your point about people wanting “anybody but Romney” is still valid. If there had been another, better candidate (besides Gingrich and Santorum, who both have way too many negatives), Romney would be toast.

  2. I think it’s anyone’s game at this point. There are 25 convention delegates up for grabs in SC, no one has more than 10 at this point (Friday nite) and there are 1100 plus needed to secure a nomination. There are some states that grant their delegates in a winner takes all way and others that do propotional. It’s been up and down over the last 2ish weeks….it’s too early to say who the nominee is going to be. One thing, I hope it’s NOT Newt — yikes! I hope it’s not him. What I do think will happen, is that the field will thin a bit more so by the time Super Tuesteday comes that day will push someone over the top to the nomination.

  3. I just went to the site you posted, Evangelical Dilemma, and read the comments beneath the article. Very little anti Mormonism. I found it interesting. Thanks.

  4. Joyce,

    Consider the fact that any further thinning will go to Newt. Period.


    South Carolina shouldn’t be an exception. It should be our early indicator of what the ‘Solid South’ is going vote. If it is an exception, this will be a first. South Carolina has chosen every Republican Nominee in modern history.

    That being said, I have another prophesy: I predict that all of Baptist country votes for Newt and all of non-Baptist country votes for Romney. If that happens, who wins? I’m not even sure.

  5. Hmmm… well, actually, there are only two people left to ‘thin’ at all: Santorum and Ron Paul. Gingrich is going to win SC and thereby become the Evangelical pick. Ron Paul is going to go the distance for the sake of forcing change in the Republican party. Short of him getting ‘hit by a bus’ he isn’t going to thin from the field. If he did, Romeny would probably benefit more than Gingrich.

    So really it comes down to who voters for Santorum will vote for if he leaves. Easy: Gingrich.

    Did everyone see that Chuck Norris (a devote Evangelical) endorsed Gingrich?

  6. Kris,

    The comments were all anti-Gingrich. (Yes!!) Want to see that trend continue.

  7. Go to intrade. People are still voting Romney will be the nominee. Gingrich does not have a chance.

  8. Perhaps it’s just the Mormon persecution complex but I can’t help but feel this sleeze is so easily accepted by the not-Romney Evangelical crowd because he’s not Mormon…. and then I look at some of these hard right politics and religion blending “Christians” and can almost see how dumb we Mormons would be if perhaps it weren’t for the Gift if the Holy Ghost…. not that were generally so wise as a people (individual cases vary) from it’s companionship but the brethren have the constant companionship which we benefit greatly from.

  9. I predict that if Gingrich wins, Utah will go blue. Not that there will be a wave of pro Obama votes, but a mass write in for Romney. I know that I and my wife in Idaho will, although I could support Santorum.

  10. If the Republicans are stupid enough to pick Gringrich, then we could see the genesis of a third political party and guaranty that Obama will win — and the nation will lose as our freedoms are swallowed in increasing spread the wealth destruction of the economy. However, I believe that the anti-Mormon vote is significant enough in SC to dictate the outcome (after all, Evangelicals break about 4 to 1 against Romney).

    I’m a Romney supporter. I worked with his team on the Olympics and have seen his organizational genius.

  11. I’m reminded of an old Bloom County strip about how Gary Hart was going to sweep to victory on the strength of the hard-to-track adulterer vote.

  12. Jettboy,

    If by “mass write in” you mean like 5 to 10% (i.e. something relatively small, but noticeable) I might agree with you. But frankly I think Utah is just too red to do a smart thing like balk at an obvious anti-Mormon candidate.

    Blake says: “after all, Evangelicals break about 4 to 1 against Romney”

    If you are right then all I can say is “whoa! that’s worse than I am assuming.”

    Blake, I’d be interested in your take on how you think this will play out in the south. Basically Romney is the only viable option. Do Evangelicals hold their noses and vote for Romney or do they honestly try to get a nomination for Gingrich?

  13. The one point lost in all of these is that the probability of President Obama being re-elected is increasing.

    First, the economy is getting better — unemployment is falling and overall activity is better. Still not vigorous but the trend is there.

    Second, the GOP is tearing itself apart. Between Romney’s tax problems, Gingrich’s infidelity and Paul’s weirdness . . .

    Third, Obama is gaining control of the narrative. Last year, the focus was on the weak economy and federal spending. Now, the focus is on equality, rich people not paying enough in taxes, etc. Amazing shift.

    I’m not a fan of the President but my guess is that he, in the end, will win.

  14. Current intrade numbers: 85% chance Gingrich will win South Carolina. Time to prepare remarks about “family value voters” and such voting for a serial adulterer…

    Chances of him winning the GOP election: 24%.

    Chances of Romney winning GOP election: 70%.

    Meanwhile, 54.5% chance Obama will win the general election.

    Of course, this is all subject to change, but it certainly looks like Newt Gingrich will win in South Carolina today.

  15. “And we all know that Rick Santorum is in fact an anti-Mormon bigot.”

    I do not know this. What have I missed?

  16. Steve,

    Actually, that hasn’t been lost on us. Many of us (including myself) have prophesied a win for Obama in the general election since back in Dec.


    You are right that Santorum is not a Rick Perry or Mike Huckabee. But than he’s Catholic, so we would not have exected that. Here is a pretty good article (written by Santorum) right Romney’s speech on faith and politics last time around. There some parts I cringe at, but most of it isn’t so bad. Some people, however, detected some anti-Mormon bias here. But if that is the case, he’s in a league entirely different than the others mentioned.

    I probably went too far calling him an anti-Mormon bigot. He’s said some things about Mormons I’m very uncomfortable with. But in full context, he’s not so bad.

  17. I just checked out intrade and Gingrich now has close to 90% odds of winning SC.

    You know, if I were totally serious about my predictions I’d go place a bet on Gingrich for becoming the nominee right now since there would be a lot of money to be had if my prophesy turns out to be correct.

  18. Here is an example (in my opinion) of how Gingrich is relying on the anti-Mormon vote to try to pull up a win:

    Please get across to all your friends and neighbors, without saying anything negative about Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, the fact is, if you look at the polls tonight and tomorrow, there is one candidate who can give you a conservative nominee, and only one candidate who can stop Mitt Romney, and a vote for anyone else is a vote that allows Mitt Romney to potentially be our nominee

  19. I don’t think it’s anti-Mormon bias causing the surge for Gingrich at all. The “Mormon effect” is far more subtle.

    Mormon High Priests grow up being socialized to NOT be street fighters in public. Gingrich is a street fighter, and he’s drawing on the palpable anger and resentment the country feels at big business, big government, and big media institutions that tell the country to shut up and do as they’re told.

    Whether the surge for Gingrich can overcome Romney’s organization is another question. However, Romney would do well to go a little more Captain Moroni and a little less long-suffering Abinadi on the current “king” in DC if he wants to win the nomination and the election.

  20. Bruce N, I will take that action. Gingrich will NOT be the nominee. I don’t bet for money, but we can bet for something else valuable. Like if I win you must write a post saying you were wrong on global warming. If you win, and Gingrich is the nominee, I will write a post agreeing with your perspective on global warming. Muahahahahahahahaha!

    Just a warning: global warming alarmists (and I know this is not a correct description of your viewpoint, because you do share some skeptical views) usually lose bets. That might be an indication that their viewpoint is more about religion than actual science.

  21. GeoffB,

    Not much of a bet. You already agree with me on “global warming” on basically everything. You’re just so emotional over it you can’t read me without a serious filter.

  22. And this is interesting:

    “Exit polls show that 43 percent of voters who said that the candidates’ religious beliefs mattered “a great deal” went for Gingrich. Only 9 percent went for Romney — a lower percentage than he netted overall, where he is running in second. In contrast, of voters who said the religious beliefs of candidates didn’t matter to them at all, Romney won 42 percent.”

  23. More than one-third of South Carolina primary voters identified themselves as very conservative, according to exit polls conducted on behalf of the television networks and the Associated Press. Mitt Romney won only 20 percent of their votes, compared to Newt Gingrich’s 45 percent.

    Among the 60 percent of the electorate who are evangelical Christians, Romney was able to grab roughly 20 percent of the vote, while Gingrich captured 40 percent.

  24. Tell you what, Geoff. If you can actually identify substantive differences between yours and my position on the specific issue of global warming, I’ll take that bet (regarding the issues you specify).

  25. One more:

    There are several reasons why Romney still has a serious lead over Gingrich. First, he has a larger national organization and more money. Second, he has an institutional advantage of an early start; Gingrich was unable to even get on the Virginia ballot, where he lives, as he surged too late to focus on ballot access. Third, the markets assume that Gingrich is still un-vetted by the current Republican electorate. He is more likely to have negative surprises for voters as they start paying attention before their primaries.

    Barack Obama has been a clear winner over the last few days; his likelihood of victory in November has reached its highest point since mid-July. He is currently at about 55 percent likelihood of reelection. While this is correlated with Gingrich’s surge, it is hard to disassociate it from all of the other developments in the race. Yet, the latest aggregated polling trends from Real Clear Politics have Obama with a small lead of 1.9 percentage points in a potential match-up with Romney; that same rubric has Obama 11.0 percentage points over Gingrich. Gingrich’s electability concerns will inevitably dog him in future primary contests.

    I suppose there will always be room for doubt as to ‘what happened’ but I’m still — againsts these ‘rational explanations’ — predicting a win for Gingrich bolstered by the anti-Mormon vote. I really hope Rick Santorum stays in the race and steals as much of it as is possible. Romney may just have to concede the South and try to win using only the rest of the nation.

  26. Note that the argument that current Republican voters haven’t vetted Gingrich also implies that current Democratic and Independent voters haven’t either. Current Republican voters are forming opinions from the debates, but Democratic and Independent voters large fractions of which apparently distrust most politically-connected institutions, according to Gallup) are forming opinions based on what they’ve heard from Democratic media or word of mouth — which is that Gingrich is bad, bad, bad.

    It seems unclear how this will play out in terms of national electability in the next rounds of polling. Right now, it’s more of a “Newt who?” moment, not a consensus by anybody except the Democratic and Republican establishments.

  27. Remember, Florida is not SC. Romney is putting lots of attack ads up hitting Newt where it counts. And after Florida, we get several states that will likely go to Mitt: Nevada, Michigan, Colorado, etc. So the momentum could likely change, at least somewhat.

    Lots of southern states on Super Tuesday, but their voice could be drowned out somewhat by the other states that would support Mitt.

    I think it will be a long, hard slug-out fest, but eventually Mitt’s organization will win out. Newt is a great debater, but not an executive. As in the past, he will have times he rises into the clouds, but then meteor back to earth.

  28. Ram, it looks like Gingrich is going to take Florida. That means Gingrich will then take Texas and the South. Those hold huge numbers. I really don’t see how Romney can win at this point.

  29. California and New York also hold lots of delegates, and fewer evangelicals…. Florida is not a winner take all state, so that will lessen its impact for either party winning.

    Newt does not have the organization to get on the ballot in all states. Some of those states, such as Virginia, don’t allow write in candidates. That’s a lot of delegates there, too. And they will all go to Romney.

    Don’t forget, 4 years ago Pres Obama and Hillary Clinton duked it out until the very end. I can see that happening again.

  30. Bill and I are registered Republicans because a few years back a nice little old lady called to ask us to vote for her son and we had to be Republicans to do it. I am here to tell you if Gingrich is the Republican candidate, I will become a registered Democrat and put an Obama sign in my front yard.

  31. Bruce, the bet became less interesting when you said you now agree with me on global warming. 🙂 I still believe Mitt will win, and I still predict Gingrich will self-destruct (again). Call me a crazy optimist, but I just can’t believe the American people are stupid enough to nominate Gingrich (although, based on recent decisions in both parties, maybe they are?).

    Anyway, if you want to come up with another thing to wager, I will take the bet. My position is: Romney will be the next Republican nominee.

  32. @Geoff #39

    Ah, too bad. I was looking forward to you trying to articulate my position. Lots of potential there across the board.

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