Archive for Thursday, March 8, 2007

Gingrich says it’s too soon for ‘08 decision

March 8, 2007


Newt Gingrich wanted to talk about almost everything the other day - from the printing of the first Gutenberg Bible to the need to change "a bloated self-indulgent system" of higher education.

But the normally expansive former House speaker became more reticent when asked during a National Press Club appearance about his own political prospects.

"I think the current process of spending an entire year running to spend an entire year running in order to get sworn in January 2009 is stupid," he said.

"I wouldn't consider running for president until late September," he added. "If there's not someone who has the right ideas and the right solutions, we'll consider running."

There's a good chance no one will meet his terms. And many Republicans see Gingrich as the candidate who can rekindle conservative enthusiasm after the international overreaching and domestic overspending of the Bush years.

But they also acknowledge he'd be a high-risk candidate because, as American Conservative Union chairman David Keene recently noted in his column in The Hill, he has "more baggage than a Grand Central red-cap."

Or as another prominent conservative, Donald Devine, put it to Investor's Business Daily: "Newt is brilliant 60 percent of the time, but 40 percent of the time he's got the new greatest idea that contradicts his last greatest idea."

His baggage includes his role in the 1998 impeachment fight against President Bill Clinton, the 1995 budget fight that briefly shut down the federal government, and his three marriages.

His opportunity stems from the fact that many GOP activists regard the front-runners, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain, as insufficiently dedicated to a conservative agenda. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is even more suspect on the GOP right, despite his current strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

And two who appeal to social conservatives, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, lack name identification and the capacity to raise the millions needed to compete with the top candidates.

But Gingrich, best known for masterminding the 1994 GOP takeover of the House, remains one of the party's most popular and imaginative figures. Though not yet a candidate, he runs third behind Giuliani and McCain in most polls.

This weekend could illustrate the extent of conservative interest in a Gingrich candidacy. He'll join most Republicans hopefuls, save McCain, in addressing the 34th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, where a straw poll will be taken.

A year ago, he ran third, behind former Virginia Sen. George Allen, whose 2006 re-election defeat eliminated him from the presidential field, and McCain.

Still, despite the conservative attraction to Gingrich's promise and his dazzling displays of verbal gymnastics, polls show that many voters won't vote for him.

In a recent Fox News poll, nearly two-thirds said they would "under no conditions" vote for him, a figure surpassed only by that for consumer-activist-turned-perennial candidate Ralph Nader and 20 points more than felt that way about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "He's the most unpopular politician in America," Devine said.

Meanwhile, Gingrich is seeking, through an organization he created called American Solutions for Winning the Future, to develop "real, significant solutions to the most important issues facing our country" by enlisting the cooperation of 511,000 local, state and federal officials. His effort will conclude with a nationwide workshop Sept. 27, the 13th anniversary of the Contract with America, which set the agenda for the 1994 GOP capture of the House.

And he's indulging his penchant for verbal combat by making joint appearances with some prominent Democrats, including Sen. Charles Schumer last month at the National Press Club and former Gov. Mario Cuomo on Wednesday night at New York's Cooper Union.

Whether this will lead to a presidential bid is anyone's guess. Even some close to him say they don't know. As eager as some Republicans are for him to run, Democrats also like the idea because they think he'd be easy to beat.

Of course, Democrats in 1980 thought Ronald Reagan was the ideal opponent - until he beat them.

- Carl P. Leubsdorf is Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News.


Confrontation 11 years ago

Does Newt really have the right to describe something as "a bloated self-indulgent system"? Now, isn't that the pot calling.....

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