At first blush, you might think a run for the White House by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich seems a bit quixotic. Newt left the stage in bad odor a few years back, and today he is mainly remembered for his grating, bristly personality. But when George W. Bush became president in 2001, having an obnoxious personality ceased to be a disqualifier for the highest office in the land.
As bizarre as “Gingrich for President” may sound, he could probably do well in primaries in the Northeast and upper Midwest. He’ll have trouble in the Red, however. He’s no a liberal, like Rudy Guiliani, but Newt is what passes for an “intellectual” on the Right. He’s never had a cozy relationship with the anti-intellectual Christianist extremists who now dominate his party. He’s clearly uncomfortable talking about faith issues. And then there’s his record of personal immorality, including numerous tawdry extramarital affairs and generally being a cad to his wives and daughters.
Of course, the wild card facing the Gingrich ’08 campaign would be the candidate himself. He loves to talk and is more prone to gaffes than the average pol. And while he may be a master strategist, he’s got a tin ear for tactics. Shutting down the government backfired on him, and the Clinton Immpeachment failed on his watch.
As a national candidate, his outspokenness and strange “black-is-white” rhetoric put him at risk of coming off like a crackpot – like Pat Buchanan but without the cuddliness and charm. And in a sense, he has been beaten on a national ticket once before – back in 1996 when Clinton-Gore ran Newt as a shadow candidate on the Dole-Kemp ticket. They took a drubbing.