President Newt? Gingrich plays it cagey

Newt Gingrich suggested on Sunday he might not run for president in 2008 if a rival has all but locked up the Republican nomination by next fall.

The former House speaker from Georgia said it would not be too late for him to enter the race after next Labor Day, if he believed no candidate had a clear advantage. He praised Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani as the contenders to watch.

"If one of them seals it off by Labor Day, my announcing now wouldn’t make any difference anyway," Gingrich said. "If none of the three, having from now ’til Labor Day, can seal it off, the first real vote is in 2008. And there’s plenty of time in the age of television and e-mail, between Labor Day and 2008."

The nominee will not be picked officially until the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., in early September 2008.

Gingrich pointed out that John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan each waited to announce his candidacy until less than a year was left before the election. Kennedy confirmed he was running on Jan. 2, 1960; Reagan did so for the first time on Nov. 20, 1975, when he did not win the nomination, again on Nov. 13, 1979, and Jan. 29, 1984 — when he did capture the White House.

"Of course I’m thinking about it," Gingrich said. "I hope between now and September, to help create with every candidate in both parties, a wave of new ideas, a wave of new solutions."

Gingrich said that in early January he will write the heads of the state Democratic and Republican parties in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where there are early nominating contests, to recommend they hold bipartisan debates and other forums.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Edward Kennedy reaffirmed on Sunday that he would support fellow Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, if Kerry were to run again in 2008.

"John is going to make his mind up in these very next few weeks, and I have every intention of supporting him," Kennedy said. "I think of what a difference John Kerry would be if he were president of the United States of America. We’d be a vastly different country. And I think John Kerry — people underestimate him. They underestimated (him) the last time. I think he’s a strong candidate."

Kerry would have to overcome early front-runners, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, neither of whom is an announced candidate. Kerry’s 2004 running mate, John Edwards, is getting in the race.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, another likely Democratic presidential hopeful, said Sunday he was undeterred by the early strength shown by Clinton and Obama.

"This is only 2006," Dodd said on a conference call from Iraq, where he was visiting government leaders and troops from his state.

Gingrich appeared on "Meet The Press" on NBC. Kennedy was on "Fox News Sunday."


Associated Press writer Beth Fouhy in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

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