by Mark Davis
Early in 2011 Newt Gingrich’s entire campaign staff resigned. In response Gingrich defiantly stated “I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring.” Such a setback would have ended the campaign of any other presidential hopeful, but Gingrich has proven to defy the odds. After being dismissed as a defeated hanger-on, Gingrich is again being considered as one of the front-runners for 2012.
As surprising as it may be to have a candidate return from the brink, it is worth remembering why Newt was an early favorite to begin with. Gingrich is the former speaker of the house. He was at the helm in the ‘90s when the Republican party took a majority in the House for the first time in 40 years. Furthermore, it was at that time that our nation last ran a budget surplus. It is worth noting that without bipartisan action in the mid-90’s no such deal would have been struck. Given that it is unlikely that the Republican party will take the presidency and both houses of congress, a leader who is capable of bi-partisan action will be indispensable. The example of the 1990’s shows us that Newt is more than capable of working across the aisle. It would seem that such a leader would be a natural candidate in the year following the first downgrading of our debt when a budget surplus is not a fantasy, but a necessity.
Newt Gingrich has done well to capitalize on his already good reputation with conservatives by running on a platform of substantive conservative principles (or solutions-oriented conservatism). He has proposed substantial entitlement reform, and has made clear that the budget is a top priority. Gingrich has continually refused to tear down other Republicans in the debates and has said that he will not fall prey to the media’s attempts to have Republicans fight one another. It is this kind of focus on the real issues conservatives perceive to be plaguing our nation that plays solidly into what voters already perceive as his strengths. As well as what helps further prove that Newt is the candidate not only with the most experience politically, but fiscally as well. This kind of campaign will help Gingrich win the nomination.
Unfortunately, Newt’s time as a politician has not been without its difficulties and a campaign focused on his shortcomings will lead to his defeat. Gingrich’s political past is marked by a surprising number of flip-flops. He has, at one point advocated swift government action to curb global warming, an unpopular view in many conservative camps. Today, however, he laughs it off, saying that his advocacy was possibly the “dumbest single thing I’ve done in recent years.” He once backed Obama’s individual mandate, and perhaps worst of all he has spoken against Paul Ryan’s counter budget proposal, denouncing it as right-wing social engineering. Such changes show the somewhat less savory side of Gingrich as well as one of his greatest assets. Gingrich is a shrewd politician who knows how Washington works, but at the same time too many position changes makes one wonder what exactly the former speaker will do when he is actually in office. This single question will more than likely weigh heavy on many voter’s minds if Gingrich does receive the Republican nomination. If a Republican is to win election he will have to receive votes from voters who chose Obama in 2008. Unfortunately, one of the biggest complaints about Obama is that he is not the politician voters thought they were electing, and exchanging one enigma for another is probably not what voters will be looking to do in 2012.
Newt’s ability to be a politician and to compromise, however, has always been what has made him successful. His past has shown that Gingrich is a man of proven conservative principles who is also able to compromise when things must be accomplished. Newt understands that politics is not the realm of stalwart perfection, but is instead the realm of the possible. It is for this reason that Gingrich’s mantra about a results oriented campaign resonates so strongly with his supporters.
Perhaps Newt Gingrich’s most hindering liability is not his record as a politician, but his moral record. I often wonder what conversations between Newt Gingrich and former President Clinton must have been like. Gingrich has a past equally colorful as Clinton’s, although less marred by any long standing marriages. Gingrich has had a number of divorces and marriages, and has been accused of affairs during every one of them (no doubt correlated). If you were to read about Gingrich’s 1976 campaign it might even seem that President Clinton had taken suggestions from the speaker on more issues than just the budget. Such lack of discipline will more than likely doom any general election aspirations for Gingrich.
Newt has more than enough experience to offer as president. More importantly, Gingrich has proven that he can address real issues that affect the path of our country today. Gingrich can compromise when the situation requires and support the issues that need supporting; he is a proven conservative with a proven record. In order for Gingrich to win the general election, the campaign will have to be one that focuses on his strengths. If the Republicans successfully make 2012 about what Newt can do, he will win. If, however, the election becomes what (or who) Newt has done, he will lose.