If we stay on the same path, Romney is going to be the nominee unless some external unpredictable major shock happens, but this part of the fight will continue for at least a while.

So I want to talk about Newt Gingrich’s message just a bit. Newt’s basically peddling a conspiracy theory: the “elite media” (whatever that is) and the GOP establishment have conspired to select a “Massachusetts moderate,” but ordinary grass roots Republicans like him with his ordinary grass roots money and his outsider history are going to stop them. Now, put aside how silly it is that a guy propped up with Super PAC money is going around bragging about his small donors, or how the former Speaker who has lived in the Washington DC area for over thirty years is claiming to be an outsider, but consider the message.

Isn’t it, as someone might say, profoundly and fundamentally dangerous to the GOP? He’s basically saying that the nominee is completely illegitimate, isn’t he? Now, here’s the thing. I don’t believe that it matters very much if a few Newt dead-enders, if there are such folks wind up buying his latest snake oil; it might be a minor negative for eventual nominee Romney, but it’s balanced out by having Newt (and Santorum) constantly and visibly calling him out as a moderate — a minus for now, but presumably a plus in November.

But I do think it’s a dangerous idea to begin spreading within the party. So: has it spread beyond Newt? Are talk radio hosts, Tea Party leaders, and other high-visibility Republican leaders are echoing Newt’s conspiracy theories? Anyone know?

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.