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