Newt Gingrich’s stock rises as GOP scrambles

By Carol Eisenberg

November 20, 2008 at 9:35am

Out of the ashes of the Republican Party an old GOP warrior may be rising.

Or at least that’s the story being pushed by boosters of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who see him as a potential savior of a battle-scarred party.

A chief architect of the 1994 Contract with America, the onetime Georgia congressman drove the Republican Party’s dramatic success in the 1994 elections when the GOP took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. In 1995, Time magazine named him Person of the Year for his leadership of that short-lived revolution.

But Gingrich resigned in 1998 in the face of GOP midterm losses and mounting ethics questions - among them, an income-tax probe and whispers that he helped lead the attack against Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky affair while having an extramarital relationship himself.

In the decade since leaving Congress, Gingrich has remained a mainstay of conservative politics, aligning himself with leading conservative think tanks and writing several books.

And at least some in the party’s conservative wing are convinced he is the man to shepherd his party to leadership once again. They say he is an endless fount of ideas and a bulldog of a competitor. Columnist Robert Novak goes so far as to suggest him as a contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination:

In serious conversations among Republicans since their election debacle Tuesday, what name is mentioned most often as the Moses, or Reagan, who could lead them out of the wilderness before 40 years?

To the consternation of many Republicans, it is none other than Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House.

Gingrich is far from a unanimous or even a consensus choice to run for president in 2012, but there is a strong feeling in Republican ranks that he is the only leader of their party who has shown the skill and energy to attempt a comeback quickly.

Gingrich himself appears to be doing everything he can to encourage such talk.

After deciding to sit out the Republican presidential primaries last year, purportedly because he wanted to devote himself to his new think tank, American Solutions, he told Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Drogin: “Make a note now. Call me the day after the 2008 election.”

And as Republicans cast about for someone to lead them out of the post-election wilderness, he has been a relentlessly upbeat presence on the political circuit, positioning himself as party guru, if not a candidate.

As he told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation last Sunday: “I’ve been through the ‘64 collapse when the Republican Party was going to disappear, and the ‘74 Watergate collapse when the Republican Party was going to disappear, and the ‘92 defeat of President Bush.

“And in each case, I watched us within a short time focus on new ideas and new solutions, and within a very short time come back as a stronger and healthier party.”

But rehabilitating oneself as a candidate, as opposed to a talking head, may be a tough sell.

A longtime crusader for traditional family values, Gingrich is now on his third marriage, and his infidelities have been vividly chronicled by the media, for instance in Gail Sheehy’s 1995 Vanity Fair profile.

Also damaging were the widespread reports about how he confronted his first wife, Jackie, in a hospital room in 1980 where she was recovering from uterine cancer surgery, to hammer out the terms of a divorce.

Even Novak acknowledges concerns about “deep ‘character flaws’ of Gingrich’s that would be difficult to overcome in a presidential campaign.”

The problem, as Novak sees it, is that nobody else in the GOP firmament has what he calls Gingrich’s “dynamism”:

“What is certain is that Gingrich has the desire and the will. He has a deep-seated ambition. He had not even settled into the House speaker’s chair in 1995 when he confessed to me his presidential desires for 1996. That was not to be, but he never abandoned the personal dream and is ready to pursue it now.”

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  • #1.   boredwell 11.21.2008

    Apocryphal or not, the sotry goes that Clinton seated Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich in the back of Air FOrce One while flying from DC to Jerusalem to attend Yshak Rabin’s funeral. Dole and Gingrich felt snubbed. Gingrich was infuriated.

    Gingrich led the Republicans not to submit a revised budget, allowing the previously approved appropriations to expire on schedule, and causing parts of the Federal government to shut down for lack of funds. Gingrich inflicted a blow to his public image by seeming to suggest that the Republican hard-line stance over the budget was in due to his “snub” by the President.

    Gingrich’s record has shown him to be a diva and drama queen. He’s intractable and thetorically vitrolic. His vaunted, self-image polishing Contract with America turned out to be braggadocio.

    It just goes to show how backward thinking the broken GOP leadership has become in the wake of its defeat. To resurrect Gingrich illustrates that it can not(refuses?)think outside the box. Piyush (Bobby) Jindal is a better choice though the thinking behind that is warped. If pitting two people of color against one another is the GOP’s idea of “fighting fire with fire” it will fail.

    I hope they do select the former Speaker of the House as their guy. They will surely fail with that intractable man blathering at the GOP’s bully pulpit. Whatever the GOP decides it’s a guarantee that it will harken back to its static ideological belief that there is a big bad bogeyman lurking in every issue nationally and interntaionally. They are not America’s saviors. And I, for one, am sick of them.

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