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Must Read Op-Eds for Thursday, December 15, 2011

THE SPARRING PARTNERBY DANIEL HENNINGERWALL STREET JOURNALNewt Gingrich will either get Mitt Romney into shape for 2012, or he will take Mitt down in next year'


Newt Gingrich will either get Mitt Romney into shape for 2012, or he will take Mitt down in next year's primary contests before the former Massachusetts governor gets himself, and his party, in over his head... It has come to this—a Republican nomination out of Hollywood, which too often is where this process has been the past seven months. But it isn't going to have a Hollywood ending. Tinker Bell isn't going to conjure Chris Christie or anyone else out of fairy dust before the primaries begin. These two are it. Newt Gingrich's flaws have been posited. Mitt Romney's inadequacies are known. It's time to put these two in a cage together so that one can emerge a fighter, ready to compete for the presidency.


We fear that to nominate former Speaker Newt Gingrich, the frontrunner in the polls, would be to blow this opportunity. We say that mindful of his opponents’ imperfections — and of his own virtues, which have been on display during his amazing comeback. ... If he is the nominee, a campaign that should be about whether the country will continue on the path to social democracy would inevitably become to a large extent a referendum on Gingrich instead. And there is reason to doubt that he has changed. Each week we see the same traits that weakened Republicans from 1995 through 1998. ...Gingrich has always said he wants to transform the country. He appears unable to transform, or even govern, himself. He should be an adviser to the Republican party, but not again its head.


Polls suggest Gingrich’s support may be softening. He’s not having a great week. Actor Gary Busey suddenly announced, for no apparent reason, that he was retracting his endorsement, which he had made four days before. Perhaps Busey, who once competed in “Celebrity Apprentice,” is hoping for a return of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Newt is sticking to his no-attacking-fellow-Republicans pledge, while Romney is running around calling him everything from unreliable to uninformed to uxorious. (I made the last one up.) Iowa Republicans are running out of people to anoint front-runner.  It’s too bad about the [Christine] O’Donnell endorsement [of Romney]. I was sort of hoping she’d suddenly surface in Iowa as the next Mitt Romney alternative.


Mr. Holder effectively demolished the phony voter-fraud excuse used by Republicans supporting these laws, pointing that such fraud happens far too infrequently to justify this kind of discrimination. And he called on citizens of every state to demand a voter registration system that is not cumbersome, allowing anyone eligible to exercise what Lyndon Johnson called "the basic right, without which all others are meaningless." His department faces a concerted opposition of political opportunists who believe making it easy to vote harms their interests. Mr. Holder's speech was a strong first step, as long as it is backed up by the full power of the law.


If America and its friends aren’t careful, this same process will repeat itself across the Arab world as the dictators are toppled and replaced by the underground men. The Muslim Brotherhood is powerful everywhere — from Egypt to Palestine to Syria — because its members were recruited with an almost Leninist determination. Eric Trager writes in Foreign Affairs after extensive interviews with Muslim Brotherhood cadres: “The Brotherhood’s recruitment system virtually guarantees that only those who are deeply committed to its cause become full members.” Iraq is free to be itself again. That’s the upside of Maliki. If he performs poorly, leans too much toward Iran or squanders Iraq’s wealth through corruption, then the people will vote him out. That’s the hope.


Here’s the underlying secret of the campaign: Jon Huntsman is far more conservative than moderates and conservatives realize... For the moment, few outside Huntsman’s circle would make a $10,000 bet on his winning the nomination. His chances hang on moderates still liking his demeanor and conservatives realizing, as his wife, Mary Kaye, told one voter here, that “he’s the most consistently conservative of all of them.” It’s a bank shot, but in a campaign that has seen Herman Cain’s crowds cheering a trio of nines, stranger things have already happened.


Romney has the misfortune of being an earnest man running in an ironic time, and the leitmotif of the Republican race so far has been the search for the "anti-Romney." Party activists reached out to several men who declined to run, and then Republican voters lavished their affections on, successively, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Newt Gingrich, all the while keeping Romney's poll numbers hovering around 25 percent. They have been searching for a candidate who shared their conservative principles, who had strength of character, and who, above all, could beat Barack Obama. We believe this candidate has been hiding in plain sight. Mitt Romney is not "too perfect," as some political analysts have argued, but he is perfect enough.