Sen. Barack Obama is showing the potential to blow a big election lead in the manner that Democrat Michael Dukakis did in 1988, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said yesterday.
Both the Illinois senator and the Massachusetts governor were widely seen early in the campaign to be different kinds of Democrats and held big poll leads on that basis, Mr. Gingrich noted. But last week's San Francisco fundraiser, in which Mr. Obama blamed voting for religion and gun rights on bitterness over economics, shows that the Democratic front-runner in 2008 to be as out-of-touch as the Democratic nominee in 1988, the former speaker said.
"The real Obama shows up in San Francisco," Mr. Gingrich told The Washington Times. "There is a Dukakis-scale second Obama who keeps creeping out from behind the disciplined performer" who has wowed audiences on the campaign stump.
In May 1988, Mr. Dukakis led George H.W. Bush, the Republican nominee, by 19 percentage points,but lost by almost eight points that November after giving repeated examples — bragging about his ACLU membership and a disastrous photo-op in a tank — that made Mr. Bush's case that Mr. Dukakis was a card-carrying liberal elitist far removed from the beliefs, desires and principles of working Americans.
"That means one out of every four Americans switched their position in six months," Mr. Gingrich told The Washington Times, noting that Mr. Obama is giving Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his nomination rival, and Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, loads of ammunition to use in painting him as out of touch with average Americans, comparable to Mr. Dukakis.
At a fundraiser there last week, the Illinois senator said that small-town Americans were let down on economics by successive administrations in both parties in Washington.
"It's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," Mr. Obama said at a private San Francisco fundraiser.
According to Mr. Gingrich, the speech fits a pattern that also includes "his refusal to oppose Jimmy Carter's visiting the head of Hamas; his friendship with William Ayers," a Weatherman radical from the 1970s; and the long-running flap over his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
It also follows Michelle Obama's comments about America being a "mean" country and her husband's candidacy being the first time in her adult life that she feels proud of America.
"If you go to the most expensive private school in Hawaii and then move on to Columbia University and Harvard Law School, you may not understand normal Americans," Mr. Gingrich said. "Their beliefs are so alien to your left-wing viewpoint that you have to seek some psychological explanation for what seem to be weird ideas."
Liberals think others "can't really believe in the right to bear arms, traditional marriage, their faith in God," Mr. Gingrich said. "They can't really want to enforce the law on immigration. Therefore, they must be bitter and frustrated."