And we thought that Joe Biden had a rough campaign rollout in early 2007, after he referred to Barack Obama as “articulate” and “clean.” Simply put, Newt Gingrich appears to have set the modern-day bar for a disastrous presidential rollout. In the last 48 hours, Gingrich walked back his past support for a health-insurance mandate; faced the revelation that he and his wife racked up as much as $500,000 in debt at Tiffany’s a few years back; encountered a Dubuque, IA man who came up to him and said, "Get out now before you make a bigger fool of yourself”; got showered in glitter by a gay-rights protestor; and, under pressure, finally decided to apologize to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan after saying that Ryan’s Medicare overhaul amounted to “right-wing social engineering.” Gingrich said this on FOX last night: "I made a mistake and I called Paul Ryan today who is a close personal friend and I said that." Ryan’s office confirmed to NBC’s Shawna Thomas that the congressman accepted the apology.
Biden’s later success in 2007-2008 -- eventually becoming his party’s vice-presidential nominee -- is a reminder that a candidate can overcome a rough start. But Gingrich right now looks a lot like the Bruce Willis character in the “Sixth Sense”: Everyone but him thinks he’s dead. What might be the most surprising revelation of the past 48 hours is the lack of goodwill Newt enjoys. Conservatives (whether it’s Rush Limbaugh, Charles Krauthammer, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, even the man in Dubuque) seem to be relishing in beating Newt up. What he’s discovered in the last couple of days: He has very few real friends in the conservative movement, and gets no benefit of the doubt. You get the sense that some conservatives were simply waiting for him to make a mistake to pounce in order to drive him out of this race.