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Posted at 4:14 PM ET, 02/17/2011

What would a Newt run mean?

By Jennifer Rubin

News reports suggest Newt Gingrich is on the verge of forming a presidential exploratory committee Could he win the GOP presidential nomination? And who would he hurt the most?

Gingrich has a financial empire, nearly 100 percent name recognition and the support of many Tea Partyers. He is an adept public speaker and debater. And, yet, it's hard to see how he gets the nomination. There are, I would suggest, at least three challenges for him.

First, he's his own worst enemy, a gaffe-maker of epic proportions. He will seize on a bit of data or an odd theory (as he did on Obama's alleged "Keynian, anti-colonial" world view) and create a firestorm. Sarah Palin's verbal miscues may be more frequent, but Gingrich's are often more egregious. At a time when the public is arguably looking for a grown-up and a sober-minded leader, Gingrich projects instability and unpredictability.

Second, he was a terrible speaker of the House. Bill Clinton outfoxed him. He was a gadfly and a distraction, and virtually every House Republican who is still in Congress who went through that period has very negative memories. This isn't to say that Republican congressmen determine presidential primaries; but there will be no shortage of remembrances of a bitterly disappointing time for Republicans.

Third, he is going to have to win over Christian conservatives in Iowa, South Carolina and elsewhere. Sure, he talks a good game on religion these days, but let's face it: He has a huge personal issue that he's going to have to explain, again and again:

Gingrich, who frequently campaigned on family values issues, divorced his second wife, Marianne, in 2000 after his attorneys acknowledged Gingrich's relationship with his current wife, Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide more than 20 years younger than he is.

His first marriage, to his former high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, ended in divorce in 1981. Although Gingrich has said he doesn't remember it, Battley has said Gingrich discussed divorce terms with her while she was recuperating in the hospital from cancer surgery.

Perhaps if he were less flaky in other respects, this would not matter, but it is certainly baggage other candidates won't have.

That doesn't mean Gingrich would be a push-over, or that other candidates have nothing to fear. If nothing else, he's a fierce inquisitor. He will blast Mitt Romney on RomneyCare and attack Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on everything from the social "truce" to Daniels's apparent neo-isolationism. In that sense he will be, if he decides to run, a fascinating figure, someone unable to win but highly entertaining and, as far as other candidates are concerned, quite dangerous.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 17, 2011; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Keep looking, Jennifer. Maybe you guys will find someone. I wouldn't recommend a Beltway fat cat with a big mouth who's been married 3 times.

Posted by: danw1 | February 17, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I hope he's just trying to boost his speaker's fees. Newt is smart and always interesting, but his negatives rival Palin's. Republicans must win this election for the sake of America. Let's find someone who can carry Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Posted by: eoniii | February 17, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rubin writes: "Perhaps if he were less flaky in other respects..."

In the very next graf she writes: "... someone unable to win but highly entertaining and, as far as other candidates are concerned, quite dangerous."

Ms. Rubin, I get the 'entertaining' part. Can you elaborate how Mr. Gingrich would be 'quite dangerous' to other contenders if, by your own admission, he's a flake and can't win?

Posted by: MsJS | February 17, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Ed.'s note --

Uh, it's not 'Keynian,anti-colonial', but 'Kenyan, anti-colonial'. Mixing it up with 'Keynesian economics'. Keynes, Kenya, different animals altogether. Absolutely positively egregious!

Otherwise, right on, spot on, bullseye. Can anybody help with a new cliche here? Spot on's too dang Britisher, sorry.

Posted by: aardunza | February 17, 2011 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I believe one danger lies in the fact that, as Ms. Rubin writes, 'he is an adept public speaker and debater.' Newt is quite simply smarter than the average, with a grating quick-draw, 'take-no-prisoner' manner and voice timbre which led to extremely high negatives with the public when he was Speaker. Anyone remember his first appearance on This Week as Speaker in Jan '95 -- he left Brinkley slack-jawed with disbelief, didn't he? But the late disgraced Speaker Jim Wright RIP would attest to Newt's dangerousness if he could.

Posted by: aardunza | February 17, 2011 7:44 PM | Report abuse

"Sarah Palin's verbal miscues may be more frequent, "

name the last 3 jen?

Posted by: engdre | February 17, 2011 7:56 PM | Report abuse

@MsJS: Flake isn't a good term. As some wag said "Newt has more big ideas before breakfast than many have in days" or some such. As a minority leader he was devastating to the Dems. Once he became Speaker, however, he was over his head.

So, he's smart, thoughtful in policy terms and articulate, so he could be a real thorn to the competitors. Maybe this would actually create value by making his opponents sharpen their arguments. But I agree with Jen - he carries far too much baggage to win.

Posted by: jafco | February 17, 2011 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Newt running is a wet dream for dems. Anyone remember why he left? hmmmm.
WHO CARES, far more interesting is what the GOP can manage with budget cuts, how about if they pass something and Obama vetoes it?
What about the supreme court scheduling a conference on Obama's citizenship?
How about thinking about everything that he did in the last two years being VOID.
Can you say President Biden?
Might be a blessing to the Dems, a black base angry and saying the racist white court robbed them, no health care, a tarp undo (as much as it could be) and an irate dem base determined for 2012.

Posted by: Saladin3 | February 17, 2011 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Good one engdre. Exactly!

Posted by: aardunza | February 17, 2011 11:33 PM | Report abuse

I never thought I'd say thism, but I'm with eonii on ths one. Gingrich is a cynical fat cat with too many skeletons in his closet and is as despised among Republicas as he is among Democrats.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 18, 2011 1:06 AM | Report abuse

Just like Peggy Noonan has to get her digs in at George Bush, Jenn Rubin can't let a week go by without bashing Sarah Palin.

Posted by: johnhiggins1990 | February 18, 2011 3:33 AM | Report abuse

JohnHiggins said:

"Just like Peggy Noonan has to get her digs in at George Bush, Jenn Rubin can't let a week go by without bashing Sarah Palin."

Jennifer's still upset that Sarah Palin was a bonifide member of the Buchanan Brigade back in the 90s. Lefty neocons such as Mrs. Rubin can't forget such blasphemy.

Not to worry John, in about another 10 years this blog will be renamed "Left Turn" once the neocons go back to where they came from.

Posted by: mfray | February 18, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

For Ms. Rubin's information, since she apparently doesn't take time to actually do her homework, this is what Newt has already said about Romneycare in an interview with David Brody.

Newt Gingrich: Governor Romney's made very clear that he favors absolute repeal of Obamacare and that he believes it's not accurate and not fair to try and compare the two. And I think you have to start with that. and I also think, in all fairness to Governor Romney, that he vetoed many provisions that the liberal Democrats in the Massachusetts state legislature added to the bill. and they overrode his veto.

So I think if you're going to go back and look at the original Romney bill you'd have a much better bill and a much more practical bill than what the liberal Democrats did to the legislation because they literally overrode his veto on a whole series of items.

David Brody: And so it's not as clear cut as people make it?

Newt Gingrich: Yeah. I think it's not, but that will be part of the dialogue.

The more I read Rubin's articles, the more it becomes clear she's just throwing stuff out there without really doing any real research.

Posted by: Robbyshankar | February 18, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

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