Newt as Nixon

It is painful to watch Newt self-destruct in a swamp of self-pity. Painful because he could rise above it and exit this race with grace. Instead, his demeanor reminds me of the brooding eyes, the self-absorption and the narcissism of Richard Nixon during the dark days of his political career.

In 1968, we were told there was a new Nixon, that the old Nixon had matured, learned to let go of his petty grievances and to be more forgiving of those who had wronged him. And we later learned, despite his brilliance as a foreign policy President, there never really was a “new” Nixon—just the old Nixon with a smile pretending to be someone he wasn’t and never could be.

There isn’t a “new” Newt. There never was. Under fire, the old Newt is back with all his bitterness, sarcasm, insecurity and vanity on open display for all to see.

It is a classless exit. And it illustrates something important about the character of people. The personality of a human being is pretty well set by the time they reach the age of 25. The essential character of a person doesn’t change over time. It can be hidden for a while, but the real thing usually emerges during times of extreme stress or disappointment.

The county can be grateful that someone went after Newt with what were admittedly vicious attack ads in Iowa. (The same kind of vicious attack ads that Newt has used in his long career in public life) Because the ads ran, the old Newt returned. And we saw, despite his brilliance as a policy wonk, there never really was a “new” Newt—just the old Newt with a smile pretending to be someone he wasn’t and never could be.

His mission is no longer victory. It is vengeance.

A lesson in this for all in public life…during moments of extreme pressure, the real “you” is likely to show up. If the “real” you that people see when you are under pressure is the same “you” people saw when things were fine, voters will not notice a disconnect. But if during those dark days they see a new character on the stage, they are likely to conclude that you have been trying to deceive them. When that happens, your campaign is over. And rightly so.

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Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

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