Newt Gingrich for President?

The former Republican speaker of the House is considering a presidential bid.

Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee, November 2, 2009
Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee, November 2, 2009 (Harry Butler)

Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told the Associated Press this week during a trip to Iowa that he has “never been this serious” about running for president. But what are his chances?

Financially, the Republican stalwart is in prime condition. Politico reports that his political action groups, foremost among them American Solutions for Winning the Future, raised nearly $3.5 million during the past three months: an impressive windfall for a politician who has yet to announce plans for a candidacy.

The website is quick to point out some of the problems that stem from donations, however. Gingrich’s advocacy group received, for instance, $500,000 in contributions from a controversial casino magnate and another $100,000 from the Dallas based Plains Exploration and Production Company that owns deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. “American Solutions has positioned itself as a leader in supporting offshore oil drilling and opposing efforts to make it easier to form unions,” notes Politico.

[T]hose contributions, combined with earlier donations from energy companies and fiercely anti-union businessmen, can be expected to fuel opponents’ allegations that Gingrich has been engaged in pay to play politics since leaving Congress in 1999.

At the same time, American Solutions has a major fundraising advantage. As a so-called 527 group, it can accept unlimited contributions prohibited by rules governing federal election campaigns and political action committees.

So Gingrich is likely to have the means to fund a presidential campaign. Does he have the appeal to make it through?

At February’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Gingrich received a meager 4 percent of the votes in the event’s presidential straw poll, far behind libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul. So did former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, though, and he’s considered a likely frontrunner for the 2012 race nevertheless.

CPAC participants listed “reducing the size of federal government” as their priority and Gingrich has been carefully trying to boost his fiscal conservative credentials since. Last April he lambasted Democrats in a The Washington Post op-ed for turning America into a “secular-socialist machine.” The Obama Administration, he alleged, was ignoring the will of the people, enacting socialist policies and actively denying America’s religious heritage. But above all, it plunged the country in the red with a stimulus package that has yet to yield results.

His latest book, To Save America (2010), expresses a similar sentiment, blaming the administration for using the recession as an excuse to expand government. As early as March 2009, Gingrich thrashed Republicans for allowing increased spending during the Bush Administration and for not doing enough to block the incumbent president’s early initiatives.

As Americans identify the deficit as their number one concern, Gingrich promises to restore balance to the budget and save America from mounting debt. He hasn’t been clear yet on how to do it, though.

The former speaker may be able to bridge the divide between small-government conservatives and libertarians currently rallying behind the Tea Party movement on the one hand and the religious right on the other but he should take care not to cosy up to either camp, in which case moderate, centrist voters will likely swing to the left in 2012.

Comments

  • The statement the “Gingrich has been carefully trying to boost his fiscal conservative credentials” seems to ignore history for the sake of cheap political innuendo, implying Gingrich is changing his stripes to garner additional support. I can forgive the undergraduate author for not remembering the “Contract with America” and it’s role in creating a balanced federal budget briefly, his continuing involvement in the American Enterprise Institute and a litany of organizations espousing fiscal conservatism. If Mr.Ottens cares to “carefully boost” his journaistic credentials, perhaps he’ll dig at least as deep as the Wikipedia page next time and try to avoid the biased implications of this sort of language.

  • Steve, it seems you’re rather misunderstood me and reading back my post, I can’t blame you entirely. Gingrich absolutely deserves credit for the financial austerity that characterized the late 1990s and I should have mentioned this. That alone, as far as I’m concerned, makes him a serious, a worthwhile contender for the Republican nomination.

    At the same time, he represents a wing of the GOP that is more evangelical than libertarian. Combined with his record on bringing balance to the budget, that may make him a dream candidate to some on the right, but I feel that he’s leaned a bit too much to the side of the Bible Belt, complaining, for instance, about the administration being supposedly too “secular” while I’d rather he stress his accomplishments as a fiscal conservative.

  • I do not believe Palin would be strog enough to head the ticket; but,
    with her as the Vice Presidential candidaste there are several right behind Gingrich that should be ableto Win.

  • Newt Gingrich thinks Secularists are Liberals. Or he knows the two are unrelated and is pandering to the ignorant religious conservative masses. Either way, I have no respect for him.

    When on the tea partier email list, there was an email about the secular liberal machine (kindly ignoring that mosts atheists are libertarians or some variation). I requested the ignorant label be removed and that an apology was in order. I received none and promptly unsubscribed.

  • I have no faith in the major parties, republicans and democrats both increase taxes and do nothing for their constituents. They are in the pockets of various corporations or special interest groups, there needs to be a serious purging in western politics.

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