Newt Gingrich Running Stealth Non-Campaign for President
Newt Gingrich is not running for president. But if the people sign petitions to get his name on the ballot in all fifty states. . . . No, wait. That was Ross Perot.
The radical realist who defied conventional wisdom 12 years ago by stealing the House out from under the noses of entrenched Democrats now plans a surprise attack for the presidency. “I’m going to tell you something, and whether or not it’s plausible given the world you come out of is your problem,” he tells Fortune. “I am not ‘running’ for president. I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen.” So he’s running, only without yet formally saying so.
While other potential competitors like Arizona Senator John McCain, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney build staff and hire consultants, Gingrich revealed to Fortune that he plans to create a draft-Newt “wave” by building grassroots support for his health care, national security and energy independence ideas – all of which he has been peddling to corporate audiences over the past six years. “Nice people,” Gingrich says of his GOP competitors. “But we’re not in the same business. They’re running for president. I’m running to change the country.”
In December, Gingrich will launch a 527 group, called “American Solutions for Winning the Future,” that will enable him to raise and spend unlimited money on behalf of this effort. In January, he will conduct a strategy meeting with advisers. By next fall, he’ll decide whether to make a bid official – a late start by any recent historical standard.
It’s a strategy that would be considered far-fetched if this were any other candidate. But Gingrich has to be taken seriously. Polls place him third in the GOP presidential nomination race, behind Giuliani and McCain. And a recent internal GOP poll recently put him second, and ahead of McCain.
The similarities between Gingrich and Ross Perot are quite striking, really. Both of them are wholly unsuited for political power but much more interesting than virtually anyone in politics. Both are people who, if I happen across them as a guest on a talk show, I’ll stop and listen because they’re so engaging. They’re both uncommonly bright and natural leaders, albeit in different ways.
Unfortunately, both are deeply flawed. Perot is crazier than Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich put together. Gingrich is sleazier than Bill Clinton. Neither will ever be president and that’s a very good thing.