Are we ready for a President named Newt?

 

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. The biggest obstacle to a Newt Gingrich presidential bid might be Gingrich himself. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The biggest obstacle to a Newt Gingrich presidential bid might be Gingrich himself.

The twice-divorced former U.S. House speaker has admitted an affair with a former congressional aide who is now his third wife. His career in Congress is remembered as much for his dramatic fall — the federal government shutdown, his censure and the loss of Republican seats in the House — as his rise. His polarizing style sometimes leaves would-be voters cold.

“I don’t think it will be Newt’s moral issues that will keep him from winning the presidency,” said Tom Perdue, a Georgia-based GOP political strategist. “When he had a chance to govern, he proved that he couldn’t.”

Unlike many candidates, Gingrich won’t have to struggle to make a name for himself. People already know Newt Gingrich. What remains to be seen is whether that hurts or helps him.

“The problem for Newt may be that some voters know him too well,” said Ed Failor Jr. of Iowans for Tax Reform. “I think people can get past it, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Failor met with Gingrich on one of Gingrich’s recent trips to Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state he has visited eight times since May 2010. The strategy Gingrich is using in Iowa provides a glimpse of how he might try to overcome his personal baggage to win the GOP nomination.

Gingrich, 67, is widely expected to take another step this week toward a run. Aides have been scouting venues in Atlanta for an announcement that will make clear he intends to run. That would make him the first Republican to get into the race, giving him extra time to answer questions about his past and then try to turn the focus toward issues.

Any doubts that his personal life would flare up were erased during a speech at the University of Pennsylvania last week where a student confronted him about the affair.

“I’ve had a life which, on occasion, has had problems,” Gingrich replied. “I believe in a forgiving God, and the American people will have to decide whether that’s their primary concern. If the primary concern of the American people is my past, my candidacy would be irrelevant. If the primary concern of the American people is the future … that’s a debate I’ll be happy to have with your candidate or any other candidate if I decide to run.”

Supporters say he must take on his past directly, and quickly.

“I think those questions will be asked,” said Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, who is already backing Gingrich. “I think it’d be foolish to think: `Oh, that was a long time ago. They probably won’t think about that.'”

Not everyone is willing to let him off the hook.

“Newt Gingrich’s election would send a terrible signal to anyone who’s working to live a morally upright life,” said Jerry Luquire, head of the Georgia Christian Coalition. “I would find it very hard to vote for him.”

But with the economy improving slowly and the Middle East in turmoil, voters might be more willing than they otherwise would to overlook his personal issues.

“I care about jobs, not who somebody slept with when,” said Lee Young, a 67-year-old retired farmer eating lunch at the Good Earth diner in Muscatine, Iowa.

Gingrich will face a key test with social conservatives when he returns to Iowa on Monday to address the state’s Faith and Freedom Coalition. Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition and a fellow Georgian, said Gingrich could win his “fair share” of religious voters.

“People can be very forgiving and believe in redemption. … Newt needs to be authentic,” Reed said.

Gingrich has been traveling the country lining up support in recent months, but he has paid particular attention to Iowa, where he has already helped raise more than $250,000 for local GOP candidates and political groups.

The icy, flat farmlands there can be inhospitable to would-be presidential candidates in February. But Gingrich’s decades in politics have left him a well-traveled road map to power brokers in the state, and Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn said he has been one of the most frequent visitors among likely GOP candidates.

“He’s been helping local candidates and the parties raise money and appearing at local grassroots events — the kinds of things you need to do in a caucus state like ours,” Strawn said.

It could be that kind of ground game that reintroduces him to voters, who remember him as the bomb-throwing leader of the fiercely partisan Republican revolution.

In recent years, Gingrich has become the Republican party’s wonkish policy guru. His grasp of the arcane was on display during a recent stop at the University of Iowa, where he was in his element among a crowd of doctors discussing electronic medical records, one of his pet issues.

Gingrich listened intently, rattling off questions even though he seemed to know far more about the issues than his audience.

Trauma surgeon Todd McKinley, for one, liked what he heard.

“I don’t agree with everything he said but I liked that he bases his arguments on reason and intellect, not anecdote and emotion,” said McKinley, who lives in Iowa City.

Supporters say Gingrich has the intellectual heft and long track record to counter Obama, who will be running with the powerful mantle of an incumbent president.

Gingrich also has plenty of money. His tax-exempt conservative group, American Solutions for Winning the Future, is a fundraising juggernaut that raked in $13.7 million in contributions last year, according to federal disclosure reports. It has allowed Gingrich to stay on the road, keeping his name and face in the news.

Though Gingrich is a consummate insider, he can also play to the anti-incumbent crowd by stressing his roots as the leader of the Republican revolution in the 1990s, in some ways the precursor to the tea party movement.

Gingrich has lived in Northern Virginia for more than a decade, but aides have been sizing up office space in Atlanta, and his old home state of Georgia is likely to play a pivotal role as he seeks to shore up support in the South and escape being labeled a Beltway insider. In recent years, Gingrich has been busy at the helm of his network of lucrative commercial and not-for-profit political ventures.

At a fundraiser for a state representative at a tiny community center in Fruitland, Iowa, Gingrich talked up his early support for ethanol to murmurs of approval. The stance earned him the wrath of The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board, which Gingrich brandished like a populist badge of honor to the plaid-shirted farmers.

And his message of personal responsibility seems to play well in the stoic Midwestern state. He sums it up this way: “Teach the values we believe in and look at the world that works. It’s pretty simple.”

“You’re guaranteed the right to pursue happiness, not the right to be happy,” Gingrich said. “There is no federal Department of Happiness.”

___

Online:

Newt Gingrich: www.newt.org

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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10 Responses to "Are we ready for a President named Newt?"

  1. Sandune  March 1, 2011 at 11:26 am

    The problem with Speaker Gingrich is not who he slept with but his basic hypocrisy of self-forgiveness. Read his words during the Clinton Impeachment….. Going back to church should never cancel out the nasty attitude that Gingrich displayed at that time. In my political world of keeping right and wrong separated, Gingrich is nothing but an abuser of his God. The litmus test that got President Bush 43 elected will return to the GOP in full force. Apparently this born again attitude wins in the end and has shown many of us the hypocrisy of lying about abusing the power of the White House.

    Sadly there are far too many American voters who believe that any lies that take us into a war based on false information is justified under the guise of having a forgiving god as our leader. Just in the last couple of months of a Republican House, we have seen the war start against women and gays again. Sure, many here don’t believe that all Americans should be treated equally. Leading this nation is more than looking like other white Christian straight men.

    • Carl Nemo  March 1, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      “Sure, [many here don’t believe] that all Americans should be treated equally. Leading this nation is more than looking like other white Christian straight men.” …extract from post my brackets

      “There you go again”…quoting your all time favorite president; ie., Ronald Reagan concerning putting thoughts and words to CHB site participants that I myself have never witnessed and I try to make it a point to read everyone’s commentary over time.

      Occasionally we have some ‘dustups’ as a function of a difference of opinion, but I have not witnessed any bigotry, or hatred towards women, ethnic groups or towards people because of their sexual proclivities.

      It seems impossible for you to write anything Ms. Price without attacking people through your ever present innuendo found within your commentary.

      If I had a nickel for every time you do one of your driveby thought ‘shootings’, I’d have pockets bulging with the same. Based on your alleged education and life contacts with progressive, ‘groovy’ people from California, I’d think it would be beneath your dignity to act in such a manner…no? / : |

      Carl Nemo **==

  2. Carl Nemo  March 1, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Gingrich’s public and private track records both stink. He’s so full of himself that I can’t stand to listen to him much less see his mug on an evermore regular basis as the shadowy movers and shakers that own this nation try to push him down our collective throats as a viable candidate through their MSM outlets. The process is called “imprinting” which is part and parcel to brainwashing. If they show him enough pretty soon indiscriminate intellects will begin to think he’s “the man”…ouch! / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. bogofree  March 1, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Sounds like he’s perfect for the job, Carl.

  4. griff  March 1, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    I’m not.

    “The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” – H.L. Mencken

  5. Sandune  March 1, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Carl, how many hours/years have you spent reading and discussing President Reagan’s points of view? In your world, he died with his mind gone. You obviously spend too much time watching television comedy shows that come off only with a laugh track. How many of his books have you read? How many of his childrens books have you read?

    I rode from San Luis Obispo to San Diego with Newt Gingrich when Dole was the GOP choice. Gingrich is a product of a some fancy new religious bullshit making him on a level with his God. When he is on for the camers, he is a perfect gentleman but as I tell my daughters, do not get in an elevator with the man. I sat through his lectures on American History and he presented a story that came off like Bambi.

    I do not run into these people by accident and attend the conferences and campaign meetings for the purpose of a closer look. I admit I was thrilled when they used my front yard for parking during the George Murphy for Senate fund raiser at the Duke Wayne estate. This was a time when the Hollywood studios were owned by Republicans. There were no stronger unions than those folks.

    I’m not bragging as I come from a Hollywood family. It goes with the territory. I did a lot of oral history notes for the Hearst Castle in San Luis Obispo. It represented the big stars of the day.

    I read more books than most as I never got into television. My kids do not watch television but the grandkids are involved in the industry.

    Carl, there is no competition between your words and mine. I simply put in more research than you do. I’m retired and do not work these days. The Red Cross just opened a new office for training here and as soon as I can get through the day without pain pills, I will rejoin them.

    Be careful of your head full of hot air as somebody might come along and prick it. It is sad that you need to run down others to make yourself look important. Find your center Carl, and once you can explain it, share it with us.

    • Carl Nemo  March 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm

      Take care dear lady. As one of my British friends would say…you’re a nasty piece of work…! / : |

      ***

      There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity… Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      ***

      Carl Nemo **==

    • Almandine  March 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm

      OK !!! FUN time.

      “I rode from San Luis Obispo to San Diego …

      I sat through his lectures…

      I do not run into these people by accident …

      I admit I was thrilled…

      I’m not bragging as I come from a Hollywood family…

      I did a lot of oral history notes…

      I read more books than most …

      I simply put in more research…

      I’m retired and do not work these days…

      AS SOON AS I CAN GET THROUGH THE DAY WITHOUT PILLS, I will rejoin them.”

      And of course, the final rejoinder… drum roll…

      “Be careful of your head full of hot air as somebody might come along and prick it. It is sad that you need to run down others to make yourself look important.”

  6. woody188  March 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Are we ready for a President named Newt? Not in a million years! Washed up has been needs to think about a quiet retirement instead.

  7. Nevada Ned  March 3, 2011 at 9:29 am

    If Gingrich really does run for President, you know who will be very happy? Obama and the Democrats. Gingrich is a deeply flawed candidate. When he was last in the limelight, he went rapidly from “who’s he” to highly unpopular. The only person who went that route faster was Saddam Hussein.

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