The Trump/Newsmax debate and Newt Gingrich are putting Mitt Romney in a really fascinating bind. When sure losers Huntsman and Paul declined and made noises about the dignity of the Presidency, it looked for a minute like the whole thing was off. But Newt came in to save the day when he cheerfully accepted, saying, “How could you turn down The Donald?” and that he’s going for the “sheer entertainment value”.
Now Mitt is in a real double bind. First, Newt just signaled that a genuine smile and a sense of humor are going to be required, and Romney has neither. He’s one of the stiffest and most humor-deprived politicians we’ve seen since maybe John Kerry or even Richard Nixon. There’s a real possibility that a little ribbing by Trump and Gingrich will give America an opportunity to get a good look at the stick rammed firmly up Mitt’s ass. We had a tiny glimpse of it during last week’s Fox News interview, and it wasn’t pretty.
Second, his whole strategy is based on attracting Republicans who are disgusted with the Tea Party but don’t want to vote for Obama, while at the same time pandering just enough to be a palatable choice for 27 percenters who know in their hearts that Bachmann or Gingrich just can’t win. The former don’t want Mitt in the same part of the country when the Trump debate is happening. The latter will consider it a condescending snub and evidence of high-hatting if Mitt blows off Trump.
I really can’t predict what Romney will do. My guess is that he’ll manufacture some kind of scheduling conflict, and promise a Trump/Romney event sometime next year. But the latest ugly polls showing Newt crushing him might just cause the ever-calculating Mitt to throw caution to the wind, accept the invitation, and try to memorize a few jokes. Either way, it’s going to be fun to watch.