I think Ross Douthat is on to something when he argues that Newt Gingrich is playing to Republican revenge fantasies about outsmarting, and out-orating, Barack Obama. He writes:
Ever since the 2008 election, the right has embraced a sweeping counternarrative, in which the president’s eloquence is a myth and his brilliance a pure invention. Take away his campaign razzle-dazzle and his media cheering section, this argument goes, and what remains is a droning pedant, out of his depth and tongue-tied without a teleprompter.
This is where Gingrich comes in. Just as Kerry’s candidacy represented an attempt to effectively out-patriot George W. Bush (“You have a war president? We have a war hero!”), the former speaker has skillfully played to the Republican desire for a candidate who can finally outsmart and out-orate Obama.
His promise to challenge the president to a series of Lincoln-Douglas debates, in particular, has been deliberately framed as a kind of professor versus professor showdown, in which the president’s weaknesses will finally be exposed.
“How does a Columbia-Harvard graduate, who was the editor of the law review … supposedly the best orator in the Democratic Party,” Gingrich asked recently, “how does he look himself in the mirror and say he’s afraid to debate a West Georgia College professor?” It’s a line that evokes a kind of conservative revenge fantasy, in which the liberal elitists who sneered at George W. Bush’s malapropisms and Sarah Palin’s “you betchas” receive their richly deserved comeuppance at the hands of Newton Gingrich, Ph.D.
But a fantasy is all it is.
Read the rest here.