Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gingrich, Romney, and Rockfeller

On CNN's "State of the Union," Newt Gingrich spoke with Candy Crowley about Mitt Romney:
GINGRICH: He's a very likable person. He works very hard. He's very smart. And he is a Massachusetts moderate Republican. It is the Nelson Rockefeller problem. I mean, there is a natural ceiling. And if you go back and look at the race last time, he ran into a natural ceiling.

CROWLEY: But it is a natural ceiling in the primary, is it a natural ceiling ion the -- because in head-to-heads he tends do better against this president.

GINGRICH: Well, and Rockefeller always did better in the general election run but the problem is if you can't get the nomination you don't get to go head-to-head.
At The Wall Street Journal, Janet Hook explains: "Mr. Rockefeller, the former New York governor who failed repeatedly to win his party’s presidential nomination, minted the centrist political label “Rockefeller Republican."

One bit of background is worth noting here: Gingrich himself was a Rockefeller Republican. When he was a graduate student at Tulane, he worked for Rockefeller's 1968 presidential campaign. This aspect of his life came up in a 1992 press breakfast when a reporter asked him why he was supporting President George H.W. Bush over Pat Buchanan: "Bush has never been a Rockefeller Republican. I have been. In 1968 I was for Rockefeller because he was the most pro-integrationist Republican candidate." David Kramer, a fellow Tulane grad student, once recalled:
It was extremely audacious for a young man who was trying to establish his roots in the Republican Party in Georgia to basically take on the Republican establishment in Louisiana and we got a great deal of pressure. I can tell you that, in particular, the Nixon forces were extremely unhappy with what we were trying to do in Louisiana. Newt did not flinch at all. I think that's typical. He thought at the time that it made a lot of sense to try to elect a moderate Republican and he thought it made a lot of sense to try to attract black people to the Republican Party in Louisiana, particularly in Orleans Parish.