The Newt Gingrich Candidacy
While everyone else seems to be awaiting the shoes to drop in the Plame Leak investigation, I sit around thinking about 2008. In my spare time. Typically at 3 a.m. during a sleepless night.
Call it inspiration, call it nocturnal spasms, or call it evidence of brain atrophy – but I actually know who the Republican presidential nominee in 2008 will be -- barring a cataclysmic event, like a new vice president or something. And, be certain, dear readers, I will deny this if reminded of it in harsh circumstances come the summer of 2008. I may even have occasion to deny this next week.
The 2008 Republican presidential nominee will be Newt Gingrich. Listen to the pin dropping, folks.
Here are my top 4 reasons why Newt is It for 2008:
1. He’s Tan, He’s Rested, He’s Ready: Newt has been out of office and out of the limelight since 1999. While he had high negative poll ratings nationally at various times during his Speakership (i.e. 60%+ thought he may have been the spawn of the devil), he’s been filing down his horns -- his recent ubiquitous TV appearances as humble elder statesman and commentator have softened his image. It took Nixon 8 years to live down his red-baiting, Checkers-speechin’, used-car-salesman image as Eisenhower’s veep; it took Reagan 12 years to live down his reputation as a cranky political fluke with his last minute abortive run for the nomination in 1968 – but they did it, and they managed to look like the most statesman-like alternatives by the time they ascended to the Republican nomination. Like Churchill, each of them spent their time “in the wilderness” after a moment of public failure, writing and observing, before returning from isolation and reaching their zeniths as leaders. Gingrich appears to be laboring through the same mythologies.
2. He’s the Last Big Man Standing from the pre-Bush Age: Bush’s victory was considered a victory for conservatives in 2000, but here in 2005, you’ll hear a number of conservatives confess their disappointment with Bush and his team: in their eyes, Bush has become a big deficit spender who hasn’t thrown many bones to his base on social issues, and he has squandered the capital he might have used on fiscal reform, tort reform and social security reform on a poorly executed Iraq War. As numerous would-be candidates for the Republican nomination position themselves vis-à-vis the questionable Bush legacy -- either by running to the Left (McCain or Hagel, for example) or by maintaining their loyalty and arguing that things are better than you think (George Allen or Santorum), both of which are potentially risky strategies in a Republican primary campaign – Gingrich is an outsider today. As a leader of the Republican Revolution in Congress and progenitor of the 1994 midterm election watershed moment, the “Contract with America,” Gingrich may stand alone to the Republican base as an icon of pre-George W. Bush, politically-effective, conservative achievement.
3. He’s Preparing to Run to the Center: Was I nuts, or did I see Newt standing shoulder to shoulder with Hillary Clinton talking about health care technology? No, I wasn’t nuts, because it happened earlier this year – and as often as a TV talking head would use it as evidence of Hillary Clinton preparing to run to the center, where she needs to be once she is the Democratic nominee, I was thinking that Newt was using it for the same purpose. He’s recently begun staking out ground on the “progressive” issue of health care reform, proposing personal health care accounts and a version of universal insurance coverage by which he no doubt hopes to steal thunder from Democrats.
4. He Wants It: Gingrich has been spending a lot of time in Iowa and New Hampshire promoting his book, Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America (aren’t all presidential candidates required to write books just before the campaign?). Asked last week if he was gearing up for a 2008 candidacy, he replied, “There are circumstances where I will run . . . My hope is that five or six candidates are going to jump up, steal all of my ideas, and I will be able to relax and go golf.” Funny, but I’ve never thought of Gingrich as a golfer. This all sounds a lot less like a cordial threat than a full-bore promise.