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Svitek: Newt Gingrich is having the worst week ever

Patrick Svitek

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It’s official: Newt Gingrich is having the worst week ever.

Well, maybe not. But as far as the 24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator is concerned, he’s been marginalized to a vague figment of political legitimacy.

Lest we spare the Republican 2012 hopeful due context, let’s glean the laundry list of persistent chips at the former House Speaker’s credibility.

First, in a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press,” he outright condemned Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal that would transform Medicare into a voucher program, stating he doesn’t think “right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.” GOP leaders instinctively pounced on the shockingly agreeable comments, with Ryan himself cutely remarking, “With allies like that, who needs the left?” On Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called Gingrich and informed him “he was out of line” to criticize the GOP’s budget proposition.

If you’re Gingrich, you can already feel the room becoming stuffier, the collar itchier, the lights a tad too bright. It continued.

On Tuesday, media outlets embarked on squinty-eyed scrutiny of his financial disclosure forms – a federal requirement for announced presidential candidates. Of course, some inconvenient skeletons surfaced – most notably, up to a half-million dollars in debt to the austerity-conducive jewelry store known as Tiffany’s. Gingrich refused to comment when pressed by multiple reporters about the six-digit tab.

But that’s just OK, because a cordial Iowa voter elicited ample conversation with the budding Lemony Snicket at a campaign stop on Tuesday. In a televised encounter, the tomato-faced Iowan chastised a flustered Gingrich for betraying party unity on the budget issue. The voter’s parting words were even more searing: “Why don’t you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself?”

Then a gay rights activist sprinkled Gingrich with oodles of glitter at a book signing on Tuesday. The instantly viral moment was humorless and hare-brained, and it was far more mortifying humiliation of the gay rights community than it was of a social conservative running for president.

But still. All implications aside, Gingrich got glitterbombed. Now you’re tugging at that collar, begging for a glass of water, eying the exit doors.

In a Politico article published Wednesday morning, veteran GOP operative Rich Galen said Gingrich’s campaign is “close to being functionally over.”

And amid the gaffetastic brouhaha, which has blanketed the Fox News headquarters with thick, amorphous smog in recent days, there remain passive – if not ardent – defenders of the unenviable Gingrich. Sarah Palin declared Wednesday that he had been demonized by the “leftist lame-stream media,” also called-as her critics may contend-“People Who Accurately Report on Sarah Palin’s Gross Ineptitude.”

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels hurdled another rhetorical trampoline under Gingrich’s plummet at a recent state event. Daniels’ sage explanation? “Every candidate will make mistakes and have their good days, too.”

Sympathizing with a suddenly embattled competitor is no contemporary campaign innovation. It’s a savvy and especially a beneficial ploy for Daniels, who is perhaps the farthest ahead in the 2012 tortoise-and-tortoise GOP race without having even left the sidelines yet.

Gingrich is symbolic of slightly less generous characterization. He’s a certainly viable candidate who adds much-needed dynamic to a segmented field tearing between flat soda and fizzing carbonation. And if his greatest slip-up thus far is advocating a milder approach to entitlement reform, then maybe Daniels’ conventional wisdom is directly applicable.

Gingrich may indeed be having the Worst Week Ever. But it’s nothing that he can’t wash away with the glitter.

Patrick Svitek is a Medill freshman and DAILY staffer. He can be reached at patricksvitek2014@u.northwestern.edu and followed at twitter.com/medillsvitek.

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About the Writer
Patrick Svitek, City Editor

Patrick Svitek was City editor of The Daily. His other past positions include managing editor, online managing editor, Web editor, City editor, assistant...