With reports that former Speaker Newt Gingrich is set to soon announce an exploratory committee
for a presidential run, a lot of folks are already dismissing his chances -- some even saying that Obama should be so lucky as to have Gingrich win the nomination (though they don't expect he could even win a primary).
But underestimating Gingrich's chances -- especially in light of a likely weak GOP primary field -- would be a mistake for several reasons.
First, Gingrich has ideas
-- and at the end of the day, politics is still about ideas. What is more, unlike some leaders, Newt can also communicate
his ideas. Sadly, his arguments might be diluted in debates featuring a crowded field of competitors. But can you imagine Gingrich in a one-on-one scenario against, say, Mitt Romney -- or, for that matter, anyone
In a one-on-one format, my money's on Gingrich to at least hold his own -- and, at best, to dominate his opponent.
And Gingrich has something else that is vital: energy (no, not "Drill, Baby, Drill!"
kind of energy -- but get-up-early-and-work-hard-all-day energy).
Fred Thompson provided a great example in 2008 of how a candidate with tremendous buzz can quickly flame out when he lacks such energy and "fire in the belly" necessary to kiss babies, shake hands and put forth his message day in and day out.
Energy is vital on a grueling campaign trail where hitting dozens of breakfast spots in places like Manchester, N.H., can be tedious. Some candidates (like Bill Clinton) actually seemed to gain
energy from the throngs, while most are just flat worn out by them. One gets the sense that Gingrich is more like the former (though the real test will be whether he has the patience to suffer fools with a smile).
Clearly, though, Gingrich is energetic. How many books has he churned out? How many organizations does he head? How many speeches does he give? It's hard to imagine anyone out-hustling him on the campaign trail, and hard work pays off.
But aside from all that, Gingrich also has a proven track record of success that no other Republican can come close to matching.
Name another one whose vision turned around his party after decades in the wilderness -- or
who has a track record of taking a leadership role in helping balance the federal budget (which, last time I checked, was an important issue this year).
Haley Barbour did a great job running the RNC and Mitt Romney turned around companies and the Olympics -- but who can match Gingrich's record of winning back the House for the first time in 40 years -- and then actually helping to balance the budget? It occurs to me that these accomplishments are not as widely appreciated as they will be.
There is no doubt Gingrich has plenty of baggage (both personal and political) that would come up in a campaign. But my argument is that ideas, energy, and a proven track record of success can cover a multitude of sins