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Newt Gingrich in 2008?

By Vincent Fiore
web posted January 17, 2005

In 1994, an event took place that was considered at the time a near impossibility when one looks at the political boundaries that had been established post World War II in Washington.

For the first time in four decades, the GOP had wrested control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats. In turning 56 House seats from -- in today's terms -- Democratic blue to Republican red, no one was more responsible for this than a single congressman from Georgia, Newt Gingrich.

Newt GingrichAfter becoming Speaker of the House in 1995, and Time Magazine's "Man of the Year," Gingrich found himself as one of the most powerful men in Washington. His sometimes bellicose and bombastic approach to the leadership, primarily due to the incredible success of his "Contract with America" plan, soon pushed Gingrich out of the position of speaker, and eventually, Congress in 1999.

But someone who was once labeled as "the indispensable leader" by the Washington Times and called "exceptional" by Time Magazine could not be expected to return to Georgia and take up fly fishing.

So lasy week's rumblings about a possible presidential run in 2008 are not so far fetched as some may think.

Promoting his new book Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America, through stops in, of all places, Iowa and New Hampshire, Gingrich is not just selling books.

He is selling himself, or re-selling himself -- after six years away and enough bad press to bury a good sized city under -- but he will be listening very hard to what these two political bellwether states have to say to the former bellwether of the Republican Party.

Reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's "listening tour" in 1999 in New York, where she essentially made appearances to "listen to the people," Gingrich may have it in mind to do the same and sell a few books while he's at it.

In an interview given to the Associated Press (AP) on January 8, Gingrich entertained presidential thoughts, and meted out criticisms and judgment that are echoing through the coatrooms of Washington, and the cable channels.

On his thoughts on the presidency in 2008: "Anything seems possible," including a White House race, Gingrich tells the AP. "It never hurts to maximize opportunities. That's the American tradition. I don't think it's very likely. On the other hand, if I have an impact on public policy and do it in a way that is exciting and positive, why wouldn't I want to do that?"

Indeed, Gingrich has had a podium these last few years, as a Fox News analyst and policy guru. And while he may or may not have had an effect on policy, it wasn't because he did not have positions on the issues that drive the American electorate.

Besides chiding the Bush White House on the Iraqi war aftermath, Gingrich takes a swipe at then-Iraqi administrator Paul Bremer: "When Bremer arrived, he thought he was (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur in Japan…he thought he had five years to build an Americentric model. He just basically amputated the entire postwar plan."

But in the end, Bremer is spared the headmen's axe, as Gingrich points out that: "Whatever mistakes Bremer made were not corrected by his bosses, who were Rumsfeld, Powell, Cheney, and the president."

Aside from his piercing words for the Bush administration that he openly supports, Gingrich is positioning himself for something other than main stream media "atta boys" and hate mail from neocons and conservatives.

On the official Newt Gingrich web site, www.newt.org, the "what's new" section of the page says "Newt Gingrich open to presidential run," which is where the above quotes used in this commentary come from. So, while neither confirming nor denying his intentions regarding the White House, Gingrich, like he did in his years in the leadership, soaks up the attention and gauges the political landscape.

Can Newt Gingrich conquer Washington again? I don't think he could, nor do I think he will try. While I like Gingrich politically, as I'm sure many others do, I believe that Newt's strengths have always been as an inside player and strategist. Again, his "Contract with America" attests to his policy dynamism.

And while I do not take issue with the Washington Times' characterization of Gingrich as "the indispensable leader," for America was drowning in a sea of liberalism in 1994, Gingrich will have problems appealing to independents, Clinton-era Democrats, and more than a few among the GOP base, who saw Gingrich as being a bit too arrogant during his time as House leader.

It is still way too early to know what Gingrich will do. If the field in 2006 starts to shape up with the likes of Bill Frist, George Pataki, or Jeb Bush, Gingrich may start a presidential exploratory committee to gauge conservative sentiment.

But if the choices are more like Rudy Giuliani or Condoleezza Rice, look for Gingrich to continue as a shrewd voice on policy, while leaving his options open for whatever the future holds. Whether it's the analyst chair on Fox News or a chair signing autographs on a book tour, the chair of the Oval Office is a good deal further away, and a great deal harder to fill.

Vincent Fiore is a freelance political writer who lives in New York City.  He receives e-mail at anwar004@aol.com.

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