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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
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"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

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Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

Why Newt Scares Republicans


Hymie Shorenstein, a legendary Democratic leader in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, was renowned for delivering lopsided majorities, up to 15 to one, for his party on Election Day.

One year, the story goes, a party-endorsed candidate for judge who had contributed generously to the Democratic coffers nervously asked Boss Shorenstein where all the posters and pins were with his name on them. Hymie reportedly asked the anxious candidate: "Did you ever stand on the wharf and watch the Staten Island ferry come in? And look down in the water and see all the candy wrappers, banana peels and garbage? And when the Staten Island ferry docks, it brings with it all the garbage? Well, the name of your ferryboat is Franklin D. Roosevelt. So stop worrying."

It is true that a popular presidential candidate can provide an enormous boost on Election Day for his party's candidates running with him for lower offices on the ballot. For example, Ronald Reagan in 1984 carried 377 of the 435 congressional districts and helped, among others, scores of GOP candidates running that day for county commissioner.

At the same time, an unpopular presidential nominee can put his party's down-ballot candidates in a politically impossible situation. You don't want to repudiate your party's presidential candidate (because you do want his loyal supporters to vote for you), but you have to establish enough independence from the unpopular top of the ticket that you can persuade up to one out of three voters who vote for the other party's more popular presidential nominee to switch over and vote for you.

Which brings us to the case of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who according to most recent national polls is Republican voters' favorite to be their 2012 GOP presidential nominee. The problem, especially for all Republicans whose own names that will be on the Nov.

6 ballot, is that Newt Gingrich is the weakest Republican candidate when matched against President Barack Obama.

As respected Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart — who with respected Republican pollster Bill McInturff conducts the Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll — puts it, referring to the 1964 Republican nominee who got just 38.5 percent of the national vote against Democrat Lyndon Johnson: "Gingrich is Goldwater. In the general election, Gingrich not only takes down the ship, he takes the whole (Republican) flotilla down with him."

Fox News senior analyst Britt Hume, who has well covered U.S. presidential politics and is a man with solid conservative credentials, cited Fox News' own poll showing Gingrich's favorability at 27 percent and his unfavorability at 56 percent when he candidly said on the air, "Believe me, Republicans in Congress will be terrified to run with this man for fear they will lose the House and Senate."

This week's Journal-NBC News survey confirms the assessments of Hart and Hume. While Mitt Romney loses 49 percent to 43 percent in a matchup with Barack Obama, the president crushes Gingrich 55 percent to 37 percent. But here's the terrifying news for Republicans who desperately want to win both the White House and the Congress: Obama currently leads Romney 44 to 36 among the all-important independent voters, but Obama whips Gingrich by 52 percent to 28 percent among independents.

Proving that character is destiny and that American politics can indeed be personal, Newt Gingrich loses to Barack Obama among the majority of voters who are women by two to one, 60 percent to 31 percent. What you are now seeing is not some liberal conspiracy to sink Gingrich, but instead panic in the GOP ranks and the determination of many of the party's office-seekers to avoid the devastating across-the-board Republican defeat they fear the nomination of Newt Gingrich will make inevitable.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




6 Comments | Post Comment
The Tribune Group has come to a sorry pass since Zell the barbarian bankrupted it with his ego and hubris. Their Florida newspaper has moved office in Fort Lauderdale and now occupies only one floor not three. Half the staff have "gone". No wonder editorial staff jump when the publisher snaps his fingers.
Sun-Sentinel Publisher Howard Greenberg attempted to help the incumbent City Commissioner for District II today by directing his editors headed by Antonio Fins to endorse her.
But he has effectively sunk her chances on the beach, and much of Fort Lauderdale too.
The Central Beach Alliance is adamantly opposed to the Hall of Fame one--bid deal yet the Sun-Sentinel says "Rodstrom deserves credit for moving the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center project forward. Criticism aside, the project will help the beach area and is in the city's best interest."
Neither Chief Editorial writer Antonio Fins nor Publisher Howard Greenberg demonstrated any in-depth knowledge of the project in front District II candidates Tuesday January 24, 2012.
Just who is the Sun-Sentinel to judge what is in the beach area and city's interest when it comes to the Aquatic Center - locals call it the "Hall of Fame'. So much for Greenberg being in touch.
Who gives the Sun-Sentinel permission decide who should represent us? Only those who buy their guff.
And finally. Just what is a publisher doing sitting on an editorial board instructing the Editoral side what opinions to have?
We don't need a glorified sales manager used to doing the advertisers' bidding meddling in democracy. Tribune Group's up-to-now untainted reputation for fine journalism is moot. From here on we are going to scrutinize every opinion and "fact" this once respected journal reports. If the newspaper dictates opinion in a municipal race for folks who are supposed to represent us, just how much credence should we place in their reporting on companies who have the resources to buy that reportage and opinion? This is how special interests control your thoughts.
In Iran edvertorial cost four times more than regular advertising space. Does the Sun-Sentinel have a similar rate card?
How far has the virus spread? Is all the Tribune Group's good opinion and reporting for sale?
Comment: #1
Posted by: C.J. Beck
Fri Jan 27, 2012 8:04 PM
Why the Republican Party scares Americans.

The Repes will deliver control of Congress to the Dems. It is not just about Newt now. They have so immolated themselves that they have lost the respect of the nation and just about the entire planet.

Their lack of insight and inability to step back from the frenzy to observe how they look to anyone with half a brain is nothing less than breathtaking. Add to that the fact that not one of them has uttered anything resembling a serious proposal to bring back the economy.

All they can say is cut federal spending. That is no different than telling someone who is unemployed to spend less. What you do when you don't have income is find a job, not hang around and tell yourself that pinching pennies will dig you out. But that is where those charlatans are at. Unemployed and pinching pennies. Not exactly presidential material.

They will deliver Congress to the Dems.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Masako
Fri Jan 27, 2012 9:26 PM
Mr Shields, as an Aussie who watches both your segment on Newshour and the Daily Show pretty religiously, the spectacle of Newt Gingrich playing Pied Piper to the Tea Party Republicans while wooing the bewildered with his demagoguery to the utter horror of the party's Praetorian Guard is high comedic farce. But of course the longer this farce plays out, the more it damages the anointed nominee (Romney) who never gets to command a majority. If 'anyone but Romney' embraces so volatile a candidate as Newt Gingrich, Romney's chances in November against Obama must be seriously diminished.
Presuming that Romney outspends and out guns Gingrich in Florida, the question is how long does Newt pursue him across the remaining primaries, and how much damage does he do to him in the process.
In tropical Australia the saltwater crocodile is feared for its capacity to drag an unwary person into the water, hold them in a vice like grip, and do the 'death roll', drowning the victim. Mitt and Newt look to be in a similar type of clinch, but it's hard to tell which one is really the crocodile.
Comment: #3
Posted by: chrispydog
Sat Jan 28, 2012 1:05 AM
Sir; Newt is not only weak among American Voters, but weak among republican cadidates with republican voters... The principal of divide et impera so successful to Roman Rule when applied to this society has segmented even the right from itself.. The democratic party used to be division divided under a single banner... The Republicans used to be unity united under a single banner, but the extremism they have pushed this whole country into has left them in a position from which they cannot win...It took them easily fifty years to do that to the democrats... On the far left stood the communists, and labor and liberals alike were enlisted in the defeat of communism... Then, labor and liberals alike with anyone seeking social justice was labeled leftists or socialist... This country has suffered every stupidity from government that is imaginable only because we feared socialism, and hated justice... Like men in a battle shifting to the right to be covered by their comrade's shield, this country has drifted right until now, the absolute bed rock of conservatism has become the depraved penthouse of reaction...The problem for the right is that now, just as many are frustrated and angry with the foolish, brinkman, and spendthrift right as are frightened of the left... The left in this land has been beat up on forever, powerless to help the people, and unequal to its own defense... How can their policies, so long without good press or social defense be the cause of all that ails us??? The extreme right, The tea party, has hit its high point, touched upon the sublime and begun to wallow in the ridiculous... No matter how much more conservative the better dressed and well behaved among the republican candidates claim to be, it is a claim they must all disavow to become president... It is hard enough to beat something bad with nothing at all... The republicans would be better sitting this one out than in nominating a loser who will sink their whole ship...Mr. Obama has done well enough for the conservatives and monied class; barely good enough to capture the liberal vote, and there was nothing at all he ever could have done to have the right... Not one person the republicans now consider viable is electable... Not one stands out even among their own, let alone as a national force.... Some are better by not much, but all are worse, and not one of them has the sort of charisma necessary to defeat a sitting president who is doing well enought... Thanks.... Sweeney
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:14 AM
Newt scares me too.
Comment: #5
Posted by: GregO
Sat Feb 4, 2012 7:39 AM
In this huge country, why can't we find a good Republican candidate? I don't get it. All of the options are bad.
Comment: #6
Posted by: GregO
Sat Feb 4, 2012 7:45 AM
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