The second in my series of the GOP candidates for president
Newt Gingrich Former Congressman from Georgia, Former Speaker of the House
The Case for:
1. Leadership: Newt Gingrich is a leader, he presents a dynamic image of leading from the front to take the county where it should be.
2. Conservative History: Newt Gingrich was the leader of the GOP when they successfully took the house after over 40 years in the wilderness, at a time when the very concept of a Republican house was a joke to people.
3. Congressional Success: Gingrich has two decades in congress and two terms as Speaker of the House under his belt. He is intimately familiar with how bills get passed and how the congress works. This is mighty handy when you want to get your agenda passed and moreover he has an actual record of success on Welfare reform and Budget issues that this administration can’t match.
4. Passion/Endurance: Newt Gingrich is a fighter, there is no question that he is not intimidated by either the media or the left and would be willing to fight back against any attack as he demonstrated against Nancy Pelosi just last month.
5. Knowledge: Gingrich has encyclopedic knowledge about so many issues it’s hard to keep up with him. He can not only articulate issues, but the history and the philosophy behind them.
6. Base appeal: Gingrich has established a connection with the base of the party (see 1-4). He has managed to be outside of the party apparatus long enough to be able to reject the status quo that the establishment is defending. An important issue with Tea Party voters. His hits on the media excites and motivates the activists needed in a general election
7. Ideas: Newt Gingrich is an creative ideas machine at a time when creative ideas are necessary to solve huge problems.
8. Blunt Speech: Newt Gingrich’s willingness to say certain things aloud that everybody knows but nobody wants to say on subjects like Israel is not only refreshing, but there is a strength in such things (See Ronald Reagan “Evil Empire”).
The Case Against:
1. Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac: No matter how you slice it or name it, Fannie and Freddie was buying Gingrich’s clout there is no credible way to argue otherwise.
2. Flip Flops: Here is something you don’t hear on Gingrich as much but Newt has been on a lot of different sides on issues. From Climate Change to the mandates for Obamacare Newt has been on the wrong side of a lot of issues including the Hoffman vs Dede race in NY.
3. Personal Issues Gingrich’s multiple affairs, divorces and marriages play very poorly with the religious, and speaks to character. Ironically the media that still celebrates Bill Clinton will not give him a pass on this. His explanations and apologies have been inarticulate.
4. PITA: People who have worked with Newt simply don’t like him, and we’ve not talking about the people who were on the other side, we are talking about the people on his own side. When your own side forces him out of leadership, that tells you something. When so few people who know him support him that tells you more.
5. Temperament: Gingrich has proven himself easily distracted if rubbed the wrong way. Gingrich charged like a bull at a red cloth when baited by the Romney campaign going all negative and off message not once but twice. There is no reason to believe that this would not be repeated in a general election.
6. Ethics Probe/scandals: Gingrich was the subject for a long ethics probe and in the end did pay a fine. The media in a general election will go long on those charges and fines.
7. Organization: Gingrich while begin generously funded by a superpac has not managed to build a strong organization nationwide to compete.
8. Polarizing figure: Gingrich is in many ways a “larger than life” figure. In many down the ticket races you will see Democrats running against Gingrich allowing them a distraction from their own attachment to Obama.
Exculpatory evidence: The record shows the ethics probe was pretty weak (even CNN declared it so in the end). Strong effective leaders often ruffle feathers. The personal issues of his marriage are old news and he has expressed contrition for them and as a former GOP leader it is natural he would support any party member no matter how liberal.
Conclusion: Newt Gingrich has his risks but he is a high reward choice. When he is on nobody does it better. He is one of the most persuasive people on the stump or in a debate. He is tough enough and nimble enough and spontaneous enough with a phrase (Food stamp president) to devastate Obama. Newt can be high maintenance. His personal life and baggage will hurt but that stuff is old and will have to be reintroduced to voters in the Obama age. Any election that is about the record of Barack Obama is a loser not only for the administration but down ticket, the strategy will be to turn the larger than life Gingrich into the issue and hope to distract the voters from Obama, and Newt from his message. That is their best card since Newt’s strong successful record on economy and budget combined with his ability to articulate it should be devastating contrast to Obama and the left in 2012.
My Biggest fear: Gingrich’s lack of discipline combined with his huge paper trail both in office and writing, makes it really easy to set a trap for him and a compliant media would certainly do their best to set that trap and exploit it. If Newt takes the bait it could turn the campaign in a weekend.
My Hunch: I suspect in a general election Newt has the best shot. He can not only match Obama in hope and change but can point to an actual record to pull it off. He is also the best positioned to take advantage of the “do nothing congress” strategy by pointing to his record during the Clinton years. As long as Romney keep baiting him away from that message it’s moot.
My advice to the Gingrich Campaign: Positive, positive, positive. The trick is to be explicitly positive while hitting Romney implicitly. Make your case on your record, on your ideas, make sure any attack is on Obama, don’t even mention Mitt. Close with something like: “This is the case for Conservatism and against Obamaism, It’s the winning case I will be happy to make to the American people and its a case that my opponents in the race can’t effectively make. It not only skewers Romney on his inability to connect it highlights your presentation advantage over both Santorum and Paul.