Monday, May 09, 2011

Newt Gingrich set to announce 2012 presidential bid


I was wrong.

I was wrong about Newt. (As I will explain below.)

Gingrich, along with all the baggage he carries with him from a political lifetime of hypocrisy and chicanery, will reportedly announce on Wednesday his candidacy for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

It remains to be seen, of course, what this will do for the embarrassingly lackluster 2012 Republican field. With Donald Trump already in rapid decline, which we all knew would follow his sudden rise to Birther stardom, the field has been left largely to Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum, with a few big names, namely Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Jon Huntsman, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, Sarah Palin remaining on the sidelines. Gingrich, who has fairly robust credibility on the right, will immediately challenge Romney as the likely favourite, the popular (with the grassroots) anti-establishment Paul notwithstanding.

The question, at first, is whether he'll be able to attract enough conservative support to be the establishment's anti-Romney, whether he'll be able to project himself as a viable alternative not just to Romney but to the Tea Party on the far right and to solid, somewhat more moderate governors like Daniels, Huntsman, and Pawlenty, as well as to a more rigid social conservative like Huckabee.

I can't see Gingrich pulling this off, but you never know, not with such a lackluster field. He may just be enough of everything, enough of the various constituencies of the GOP, to sneak through, and he certainly has the big name and media appeal to differentiate himself from the likes of those three governors. Conservatives like him more than Romney, who will never be able to escape his health-care reform in Massachusetts, not to mention his much-deserved reputation as a shamelessly opportunistic flip-flopper. Huckabee could be a real threat, but I'm just not sure he has the policy bona fides to succeed over the long haul, even in a Republican Party that generally accepts his theocratic agenda. Palin is still the wild card, but I remain convinced that she won't run.

So, yes, we'll see, but I think Gingrich just has too much baggage to prevail. Under the sort of media scrutiny he'll face if he manages to rise to contender status and to carry that into the upcoming primary season (not just of his personal life but of his inconsistent policy positions over the years and poor record as speaker way back in the '90s, when Clinton trounced him), he may collapse, or rather his popularity may, and that, in that event, would be that. If he's serious about running, he'll no doubt be a stronger candidate than Giuliani and Fred Thompson, two high-profile Republican celebrities, were in 2008, but I suspect similar failure awaits him down the road.

**********

So how was I wrong about Newt?

See, for example, my post from March, "Will he run or won't he? Wading into the self-aggrandizing bullshit of Newt Gingrich," wherein I wrote, quoting myself from an October 2009 post (when Newt was talking about running):

Please. This is what Gingrich always does to keep his name out there, and to maintain his quasi-celebrity status on the national political scene, more with the national media than with the party leadership or base.

He's an attention whore, you see. Whenever he's not getting enough attention, he floats the "I may run for president" bullshit, knowing that the media will lap it up and put him back in the news.

And he doesn't mean it... He won't run, and never will, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that he knows he'd lose, badly. He likely wouldn't even make it out of the Republican primaries, where his pompous, self-absorbed windbaggery would put him at a disadvantage against his sucking-up-to-the extremist-base rivals. (Sure, he'd suck up, too, and he's surely an extremist of sorts, but it's hard to see Republican primary voters trusting him.)

He also knows full well that all the old dirt would come out, and a lot more we don't know about yet -- the truth about the character and conviction of Newt Gingrich -- and it's that, one suspects, that motivates any reluctance he might have to re-enter electoral politics, perhaps even more than the fear of losing...

The fact is, Gingrich enjoys a certain status on the national scene. Simply put, he is respected. Some of us find that respect seriously misplaced -- and I wish we'd dispense with the "big thinker" label for a self-aggrandizing partisan who is "big" only relative to the smallness that rules the GOP -- but the media love him, and not just the right-wing kind. And he's not about to give that up by risking the truth coming out, which it would, nor by fighting it out in the GOP gutter only to lose, which he would.

So please. Enough.

And while I'm quoting myself, let me do so again from June 2009, when I wrote about Newt's ridiculous argument that "we are surrounded by paganism":

I'm not sure Newt was being so "Christian" when he was getting blown by his various mistresses (but not, he claimed, committing adultery, because oral sex apparently doesn't count) -- or when he demanded a divorce from his first wife Jackie in her hospital room, where she was recovering from uterine cancer surgery -- or when he refused to pay alimony and child support after their divorce -- etc., etc., etc.

All that would come out again, and more. Maybe he's convinced himself that it's his time and that he could actually beat Obama -- highly, highly unlikely -- but I'm not buying it. He can't even bring himself to form an actual exploratory committee, after all, just to set up a website, and thinking "seriously" about something isn't exactly the same as actually doing it. He's not serious about running, just about keeping his name in the news and remaining a key player in the Republican Party, and I suspect we'll learn soon enough that his "framework" is just as full of shit as he is.

Well... I was wrong. He's still full of shit, but he's apparently not just serious about running but about to run.

And why is he running? Maybe it's Trump-sized megalomania. (Certainly part of it.) Maybe he thinks this is his best shot at winning the nomination. (Which it may very well be.) Maybe he thinks he can beat Obama. (As it stands now, he'd get crushed, but, again, you never know.)

He'd have to have a lot go his way, and he'll have to count on the collective amnesia of the American people to remake himself anew as a viably presidential figure, but stranger things have happened.

As for me, I'd take Pawlenty as the favourite. For now.

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