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Posted at 2:31 PM ET, 03/ 1/2011

And then there will be three: Newt to announce this week

By Jennifer Rubin

ABC News first reported that Newt Gingrich would announce this week whether he was forming a presidential exploratory committee. The assumption is that he'll tell us, yes, he is running.

In a field that was once imagined to be huge, Gingrich would make only the third almost-certain candidate (Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty being the other two). So could he win, and if not, who would he harm the most?

There is no doubt that Gingrich has an army of supporters (financial and otherwise) and a strong following among the Tea Partyers. But the near-uniform reaction to his run from political operatives, activists and staffers is that at some point his campaign will crash and burn. Perhaps it is his history of making bizarre and controversial statements that leads to that prediction. Maybe, Republicans remember all too well his disastrous speakership and figure he'll either mismanage his campaign or remind voters of the dangers of electing a figure who talks a great game but performs poorly in office.

But let's suppose he remains competitive, at least through a raft of debates. Now, that could be interesting. One Republican adviser muses, "I hope he doesn't blow up too quickly -- his intellectual power IS strong and so we shall see how he does." He is a sharp debater and would, no doubt, go aggressively after his opponents' weaknesses (e.g. Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health-care plan, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels's "social truce," Mike Huckabee's spending and tax record). Moreover, Gingrich has long been a proponent of a forward-leaning foreign policy and would give any neo-isolationists a tough time.

That said, it's hard to figure out from which candidate he would drain votes. He is another "not-Romney" candidate, so theoretically he would help carve up those votes, boosting Romney. But the rhetorical damage Gingrich could do to Romney is not insignificant. Moreover, it's a bit hard to figure out who the "Gingrich voter" really is. Mainstream Republicans like feel a bit uneasy about him, while Christian conservatives are going to have to be assured on the character issue.

However Gingrich's run goes, his candidacy is a reminder that the GOP field remains small and the race is wide open. While many observers think Gingrich is more likely to be a spoiler than the nominee, who knows? And more important, why shouldn't some of the non-candidates give it a try?

By Jennifer Rubin  | March 1, 2011; 2:31 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Next: Tim Pawlenty: Nice guy with a tough record?


He can't beat Obama. He has too much personal baggage and he failed as Speaker. He'll be interesting in the debates but won't be a contender. Republicans must win this election. We must nominate a winner.

Posted by: eoniii | March 1, 2011 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I have always like Gingrich. I realize he has a lot of baggage, but when it comes to the intellectual underpinnings of his position, they are difficult to counter.

Posted by: RickCaird | March 1, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Outside of Christie there's no one that can beat Obama without a foreign or domestic crisis that significantly damages O.

Ryan is too wonkish and won't appeal to many of the independent voters who would respond to Christie's blunt yet cheerful candor.

So unless someone really takes off look for Christie to jump in as the savior around October.

Posted by: jay22 | March 1, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Unadulterated hogwash. The 'maybe running for president' business is lucrative, and after resigning his office in disgrace long ago, Newt Gigrich has done nothing but maybe run for president and cash in on it. I'd bet twenty grand that Newt will not run for president. He'll think about it, and while thinking about it try to sell you a book or a speaking engagement.

Posted by: member8 | March 1, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I think you have Gingrich pegged. He will probably serve a very useful purpose during the primaries by challenging the heft (or lack thereof) of the opposing candidates in the primaries. Anyone who bests the unpopular Gingrich will be rewarded with financial support and gravitas accorded anyone who bests someone with such notable name recognition and reputation. If Christie does not run, Pawlenty may be the perfect contrast to the bombastic Newt.

Posted by: TheStatistQuo | March 1, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Gingrich may criticize Romney for his role in Masscare, but I don't think he'll be too severe on Romney, being that he has already defended Romney from unfair comparisons to Obamacare. And wasn't Gingrich himself involved with crafting a Republican Federally mandated healthcare plan alternative to Hillarycare when he was Speaker Of The House?

Posted by: sambunderson | March 1, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Newt Gingrich should get all the fat, pompous, overrated Republicans, and that's quite a few.

Posted by: danw1 | March 1, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

"Disastrous speakership?"

Balanced budget, welfare reform, tax cuts -- I guess we have a different definition of disastrous.

Posted by: Fusionist | March 1, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Maybe if Pawlenty grows a beard he'll give himself that needed Lincoln gravitas. Can he? Newt, better yet -- The Santa Claus 4 for President!

Posted by: aardunza | March 1, 2011 7:36 PM | Report abuse

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