Newt Gingrich and his campaign legacy
Newt Gingrich reminds me of one of those small, ugly dogs that women of a certain age make a tremendous fuss over.
You know - those creatures that seem like a single block of short-haired muscle, showing too much of the inside of their mouth on the outside, dripping and drooling, but somehow inspiring cooing affection.
The former Speaker of the House inspires similar admiration among certain supporters. He growls, he snarls, he makes a mess and still they smile benignly and applaud.
For the last few weeks he has been running on ego alone. But Newt's ego, running alongside his mouth, could light up a small town for weeks.
It is now that he hasn't got enough of those devoted supporters that he will officially step aside from what is left of the Republican race.Breathtaking arrogance
It has been an amazing campaign.
Few took him that seriously at first. One commentator said he has "more baggage than Louis Vuitton", and his three wives and messy divorces alone would stop him before he began.
After a bumpy start his campaign imploded. Most of the staff left.
There were stories of his wife Callista insisting on a Mediterranean cruise rather than a hard slog around small-town America.
He carried on, all but alone. With the breathtaking arrogance that typifies the man, he later insisted the worst thing he did during the campaign was take the advice of others, rather than follow his own instinct.
But he was right. He briefly took the mantle of the one who wasn't Mitt.
His adverts were vicious. He attacked the front-runner as a man who put making money before creating jobs.
The Romney campaign returned the favour with interest. They did a serious hatchet job on him.
Suggesting he was a Washington insider, but one no-one could work with, that he'd taken money from the hated Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae government mortgage companies (as "a historian") and that he was a loose cannon.Preposterous challenges
Indeed he is. Part of the appeal of watching him perform is the thrill of watching him career across the deck blasting off shots in all directions, wondering whether he will hit his own top mast before holing the enemy.
For some reason watching one of his speeches brings to mind the phrase "c'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre" - it is magnificent, but it is not war.
He preposterously challenges President Obama to a series of three-hour debates, he rips into the president accusing him of threatening the very existence of America and turning the country into a socialist state.
He riffs on the theme of American exceptionalism, gently reminding the audience that they can buy his books and see his films on the subject.
He reaches for the grandest of grand visions, like his proposal to build a base on the moon by his second term.
He can even be quietly persuasive, with his suggestion that government departments could use some of the techniques of credit card companies to fight fraud.
You get the feeling that for Newt self-doubt is when he thinks he may have only been savagely brilliant rather than furious genius made flesh.
For many on the right, what he understood was not their policy but their driving force and passion. He was their righteous, trembling anger at the state of their country incarnate.
That was perhaps his undoing. Anger and opposition only get you so far.
Most voters want a sense that their president will be able to work with others; will embody more than just dismay; will sound a positive note from time to time.
I said once that if Newt got the nomination there was a 20% chance his outlandish maverick ego would make him a truly great president, but there was an 80% chance he would embarrass his country dreadfully.
Now we'll just never know.