So, I think Michelle Malkin is a bit too harsh on Newt Gingrich here, but he clearly made a mistake in endorsing the Dede Scozzafava in the NY-23 race. She has now dropped out and it’ll be an all out battle between the Democrat and Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate. Hoffman has been backed by conservatives across the country, particularly conservatives like Sarah Palin who are spoiling for a fight witht he GOP establishment. Rich Lowry at NRO notes that this isn’t a real intra-party civil war but simply a unique race in the political landscape (then, why all the sword drawing over it?). Where I think Lowry is wrong is that Gingrich, Steele and Boener are establishment Republicans. I don’t think its entirely clear that any of them have the humility to take defeat very well. THAT is why this could get ugly.

There is going to be a battle over whether or not moderate Republicans should be backed in contested races because they want the majority back and I’m willing to believe that there is good intentions in the idea of the big tent. But there needs to be some principles over who is accepted into the tent. The national media often says that it is the religious right that is marginalizing the GOP over issues like abortion and gay rights. Maybe there is something to that, I don’t know. But, here is what I do know. Conservative principles have not been well served by the likes of John McCain (moderate, but stallwart pro-lifer), Arlen Spector and Olympia Snowe (squishy not really pro-choicers yet not really pro-lifers either). There beliefs over abortion or whatever social issue you want to pick have not been the problem. The problem with them is that they don’t particularly have a problem with the expansion of government, particularly into the economic arena. And it is THOSE types of moderates the GOP do not need, for the sake of this seat or that. I guarantee you a small govenrment message will sell in “purple” districts. We need people who will focus on the tea party message of limited government and they can win, no matter what their position is on other GOP hot button issues.

Gingrich and Steele need to realize this. And those of us who are flabergasted over their endorsement in this one odd congressional election shouldn’t write them off as turn coats or Spector clones. Gingrich is a lot of things but he is not a Spector clone. But, he is very smart and very politically astute.

What if he’s got a method to his madness? What if he’s trying to be the McCain in the next election? What if he thinks he’ll get that “strange new respect” if he’s having battles with the conservative base? That same conservative base turns the stomach of so many inside the beltway. Is he setting up his own Sister Soulja moment? I don’t know, but it could be a very long game he’s playing here and it might not be a dumb one. But, unlike McCain, I still trust Gingrich to come down on the traditional conservative side when its all said and done. That’s why I think Malkin is way too quick to write him off.

UPDATE: Dede endorsed the Democrat. Well, Newt, Steele et al will HAVE to be humble because they were so clearly, inescapably wrong to back this (liberal) horse.