Every so often, one of the major political parties goes off the deep end and nominates someone for president who has absolutely no chance of winning. The Republicans did it with Barry Goldwater in 1964 and the Democrats with George McGovern in 1972. The Republican faithful now seem inclined to do it again with Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich has leaped ahead of Mitt Romney in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, with 37 percent of likely GOP primary voters backing the ex-House speaker and Washington power broker, against only 28 percent supporting the ex-Massachusetts governor and hedge fund multimillionaire.
Unfortunately, Gingrich comes up short against the incumbent, Barack Obama, losing in a hypothetical matchup by 18 points. Romney is down only seven points in the general election contest against the president.
But what the heck — the hard-core conservatives who dominate the GOP rank and file have been looking for an alternative to Romney, whom they view as an untrustworthy moderate and a practitioner of a suspect religion to boot. So they have stomped on the gas and are heading for the cliff, “Thelma and Louise” style.
Romney might still stop Gingrich somehow and regain control of the contest, but maybe not. There is just no accounting for ideology and enthusiasm in politics, no matter how hard the fixers try. If Romney loses Florida, there’s nothing left before the canyon floor.