The Field Narrows, Gingrich Running for President

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did” – Newt Gingrich

No major earthquakes today in Italy (though there were some modestly sized ones over in Spain), and while I had meant to turn to a discussion of some sort of governing principle, the political events of the day are interesting.

Barack Obama is making another PR misstep, inviting some rapper named “Common” to the White House without properly vetting prior statements  (or maybe they did, and just didn’t care). I personally could care less about what Common has said in the past – but it was stupid from a PR standpoint. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is trying to get noticed – declaring that the first thing he’d do as president is get rid of Obamacare … no mention of whether he would go back and do the same with Romneycare in Massachusetts.

Amidst these oddities, Newt Gingrich announced that he would run for the Republican presidential nomination. Now this is a development.

Let us first dispense with the pleasantries – I’m hoping to see Ron Paul or someone with Tea Party bona fides win the nomination – and that is not Newt Gingrich. (I think Chris Christie brings something to the table with strident fiscal conservatism, but even there I still have questions about guiding principles. That said, disaster can possibly be averted with a pragmatist candidate – but only one who is willing to be far reaching in his attempts to reshape the budgetary process … and Gingrich would probably meet the minimum entry requirements on this front.)

I haven’t read much about what the punditry is saying; I take two main points away from the announcement.

First, the field has narrowed. Gingrich has broad-based political appeal to Republican primary voters. He’s acceptable to party loyalists but can also speak to conservatism (and has some Reaganism to back it up). To my mind his entry all but ends the campaigns by Romney and Trump – there is now an “adult” and a brilliant political operator in the conversation. It also likely ends campaign aspirations for Palin and Huckabee. Gingrich can compete with Huckabee in the South, and can pull the non-Tea-Party conservatives from Palin. His entry takes a lot of oxygen out of the room for other potential contenders. (That doesn’t mean that Trump, Palin, or Huckabee won’t get into the race, but this makes it less likely.)

Second, Barack Obama is beatable. We’ve noted before that only once since the Civil War has the White House changed parties only to change back four years later (Jimmy Carter won in 76 and lost in 80) … only once! Obama has a huge advantage from incumbency. But Gingrich is as calculating as they come, and would not have gotten into the race if the political situation was unwinnable.

To be sure, Gingrich has downsides to deal with in the campaign. I’m not just talking about policy positions – but also marital infidelity (and plenty of it). He’s probably far enough removed from those problems; time in the political wilderness covers over a lot of ills. But, he’s never really shown contrition – casting about trying to find justifications. (I kid you not … “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate” … WOW!) Those issues will come up again, and Gingrich may have difficulty dealing with them.

For now though, the Gingrich entry is a serious development in the presidential campaign, and would appear to start really shaping the field.

Next shoe to drop? Who will mention Marco Rubio first in the stump speech? Rubio is clearly everybody’s favorite for VP: Conservative, Tea Partier, Hispanic; he’s got a lot to offer any campaign.

Tomorrow, we’ll try to get on to “picking winners and losers” – how governments and other organizations choose this person over that person under the guise of putting “the people” first.

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