Meet the 'Pygmies'
Republican voters' dissatisfaction with their field of presidential candidates has been percolating for months, but leave it to Newt Gingrich to give it its most memorable expression. The current candidates, he told a breakfast gathering sponsored by the American Spectator this week, are a "pathetic" bunch of "pygmies."
The label recalls the tag the press slapped on the Democratic primary field early in the 1988 campaign, the "Seven Dwarfs" left behind after Gary Hart's withdrawal in the spring of 1987: Dick Gephardt, Mike Dukakis, Bruce Babbitt, Joe Biden, Al Gore, Paul Simon and Jesse Jackson. The moniker dogged the Democratic field throughout the race, with its effects lingering even into the general election thanks partly to the fact that the party's nominee, Dukakis, is not exactly Brobdingnagian in height.
John Norris, a veteran Democratic strategist in Iowa who ran Jesse Jackson's campaign in the state in 1988, recalled this week that the Democratic campaigns that year had enough faith in the quality of their candidates so as not to let the label get to them. But the moniker's suggestion of a stature gap between the Democrats and both the man they were seeking to replace, Ronald Reagan, and his anointed successor, George Bush, may have planted the seeds for Dukakis' image troubles later in the campaign, such as his ill-advised appearance perched in a tank with an oversized helmet. "It probably fed into that image," Norris said.
So, do this year's Republican candidates have to fear that a similar perception could develop this time around, sparked by Gingrich's remark? Norris suspects not, saying the current occupant of the White House does not have the effect of making his potential successors appear small by comparison.
Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire's Survey Center, agrees. As unsatisfying as the current GOP field may be to much of the party's base, candidates like Rudy Giuliani and John McCain command too forceful a presence to be characterized as shrimps, he said. And, said Smith, there is no real equivalent in this year's GOP landscape to the looming presence in 1988 of high-profile non-candidates like Hart and Mario Cuomo.
"These guys may not be seen as top tier caliber, but there are no other top tier candidates out there thinking that they might run," he said.
One person might beg to differ on that score: Gingrich, who has hinted at running but more recently played down the prospect. Though if Gingrich does decide to jump in, notes Norris, he better realize he's already lost one constituency: "I guess he's willing to surrender the pygmy vote."
Posted by: ricktyler | July 28, 2007 7:02 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dbu2709399aolcom | July 27, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.