The NYTimes' Nate Silver argues in a strongly reasoned post this morning that Newt Gingrich, the most well paid historian in the country, failed to take account of recent history in devising his strategy for the debates this week in Florida. Just as Romney, wanting to appear above the fray and presidential after his New Hampshire win, got clobbered by Gingrich in both South Carolina debates, Gingrich was decidedly less aggressive in the two debates this week in Florida.
There is a logic to these decisions that goes something like this: When you are the insurgent, you must attack. But, when you are the frontrunner, you must appear presidential. But, that logic is flawed, especially for Gingrich. The former Speaker has built his career on precisely the kind of anti-elitist populism that is at the heart of the Tea Party. The more brash, the more red meat, the more they love him and see in him a champion. He has plenty of time for them to look at him as a potential president. In the meantime, you have to dance with the girl you brought to the dance: Gingrich is a frontrunner because of his aggressive debate style and he needs to stick to that if we wants to flourish in the rest of the GOP primary circuit.