Over the last week, Newt Gingrich has made a comeback in the 2012 Republican nomination polling. It was only months ago that he was dismissed as a campaign failure after much of his staff resigned his campaign, and reports were rampant about how it would end his shot at the nomination. Now, he’s even beating Mitt Romney in one poll. Can he win the nomination?
Most commentators of the 2012 election have viewed Gingrich not as a serious candidate, but as a good person to have in the race. He elevates the debate of the issues, because he has good ideas, but he doesn’t pose a serious threat to the frontrunners. But now that he’s rising in the polls, will the sharp knives come out?
There are many things that Gingrich has going for him to help him win the Republican nomination. Paul Bedard, a columnist at U.S. News & World Report, lists 11 reasons why he thinks Gingrich is the right candidate:
- Ideas and solutions – “policy is Newt’s strength. He is well known for his constant generation of ideas and solutions.”
- He has solved many of these problems before – he handled job creation, the economy and the deficit as Speaker.
- Bipartisanship – he was able to work with President Clinton in 1995 to create jobs and manage the economy.
- Understands the difficulties of the presidency
- He knows how to run a large operation – he’s already run one of the branches of government, and he’s run a massive campaign on a large scale before (1994).
- He’s the party’s idea man
- He creatively uses the latest communication technologies, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, or just regular e-mail.
- Resources won’t be a problem – he’s a proven fundraiser.
- He has conservative credentials
- Lessons learned – “Since leaving the speakership, Newt has spent time reflecting on things he did right and wrong to figure out the lessons he needed to learn to be better—both politically and personally.”
- Callista, his third wife
A high-profile editorial in the Wall Street Journal this week by Dorothy Rabinowitz was highly complimentary of a speech that Gingrich gave to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition in October (the video of that speech is below):
Mr. Gingrich launched into a lethal thumbnail description of the Obama administration’s energy policy. The president, he said, had gone to Brazil and told the Brazilians he was really glad they were drilling offshore and that he would like America to be their best customer. “The job of the American president,” Mr. Gingrich told the panel, “is not to be a purchasing agent for a foreign country—it’s to be a salesman for the United States of America.”
The former speaker of the House is a dab hand at drawing listeners in, for good reason—he showers them with details, facts and history in a degree no candidate in recent memory has even approached. Audiences have a way of rewarding such trust.
No one listening that night to candidate Gingrich’s reflections on the menace of radical judges from Lincoln’s time on down could have ignored the power of his fiery assessment—including the Dred Scott decision, others by courts today that threaten our national security, and much in between.
Some of the things that make Newt (why does he seem to be the only candidate that is referred to by his first name instead of his last name?) attractive can also make him unattractive. For instance, his long public service record can be a good thing, but it can also make enemies.
Dr. James Lindsay, a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations, lists four reasons why Newt cannot win the presidency:
- He has alienated people who can help him win. Sarah Palin isn’t a Gingrich fan. She referred to him and other Republican colleagues in a 2009 email as “egotistical, narrow-minded machine goons.”
- He can’t stay on message. Gingrich’s fits of pique derailed his speakership.
- He has a long political history, emphasis on long. Republicans are hungering for a fresh face. Gingrich is anything but.
- His, ahem, complicated personal history. Gingrich has been divorced twice and has admitted to infidelity. That’s a high hurdle to overcome in American politics. His explanation for what he agrees were poor choices is the he loved America too much.
Steve Chapman, at Townhall.com, contends that Newt’s chief problem is that he is a “demagogue:”
Throughout his career, Gingrich has done his best to ingratiate himself with the most rabid ideologues in the GOP. In 1990, he advised fellow House Republicans to refer to Democrats with such words as “sick,” “pathetic,” “destructive,” “anti-family” and “traitors.”
He has never lost his penchant for bombast, vitriol and shameless invention. He says Obama “doesn’t even have the courage to tell truth about who wants to kill us” and accuses him of “pandering to radical Islam.” He claimed that in December, because Congress and Obama agreed to extend the tax cuts, “the economy improved overnight” — “literally.”
There is no claim so reckless or implausible that Gingrich will not make it, with an air of complete certitude. That’s the true mark of the demagogue. He is incapable of measured judgments.
The Bottom Line
There are as many opponents of Newt as there are proponents, and this fact is borne out in his high negatives in polling data. In order to win the Republican nomination, and the general election, Newt must overcome the disaster of his personal life, must learn to stay on message, and must use every change to turn his knowledge of policy and his debating skills to his advantage. I’m just not sure that he can overcome infidelity and two divorces to convince the Republican primary voters to put him forth as their opponent to President Obama.
Question: Would you vote for Newt Gingrich for president, either in a primary or the general election? You can leave your comment by clicking here.