Newt Gingrich to the Rescue?

Newt Gingrich was given a hero’s welcome at CPAC, doing nothing to dampen speculation that he is running for president.

Newt Gingrich, who led the Republican Party to power a dozen years ago, told cheering conservatives Saturday it is time to overhaul a balky, slow-moving government locked in the last century.


Gingrich’s appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference was scripted like a presidential campaign stop, with young supporters in red T-shirts passing out buttons and pamphlets. “We clearly need the Republican Party to reacquire a movement that designs a 21st century Contract with America,” Gingrich said, recalling the set of proposals at the heart of his successful 1994 strategy to win congressional races.

Gingrich, who has been on a promotional book tour, said he isn’t currently running for president, though he hasn’t ruled it out. “Ideas precede reform,” Gingrich said. “If you can’t think it, you can’t say it and you can’t do it.”

The former lawmaker from Georgia was accorded “rock star” treatment by those in the crowded hotel ballroom. He was interrupted frequently by standing ovations, hailed with cries of “Newt, Newt, Newt and besieged by young fans eager for a photo with Gingrich.

Conservatives at this conference expressed mounting frustration with the expansion of government and increased spending in the last five years, even with Republicans in control of the White House and Congress.


Gingrich indirectly criticized McCain by attacking the campaign finance law McCain sponsored along with Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., calling it “an assault on the First Amendment.” The law places limits on how much money can be raised by candidates and campaigns, and limits on how that money can be used.

In an earlier post, I noted that “CPAC is attended mostly by the people who man the booths and by wild-eyed college kids hoping to see some famous conservatives in person.” This seems further evidence of that.

Gingrich is an interesting thinker and an excellent public speaker. While some of his tactics were questionable, he was a visionary who saw a path to Republican control of Congress at a time when it was virtually inconceivable.

Still, like most insurgent leaders, he didn’t know what to do with power once he had it. He had a very good first hundred days as Speaker and then pretty much flopped. He was consistently outmaneuvered by Bill Clinton and Dick Morris and became an albatross around the party’s neck. Further, he has made some truly despicable choices in his personal life that are hardly worthy of a man who would be president.

I’m happy to have Gingrich around as an ideas man. He should start up another think tank. But President of the United States? I don’t think so.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. G A PHILLIPS says:

    If Slick Willy can do it any body can, and I think Dick Morris is on our side now, but then again I’m looking for the Rice/Rumy ticket.

  2. jimbo says:

    There is a contradiction at the heart of small government conservatism/libertarianism. The term limits movement of the 1990s had the right idea. Don’t make a career out of government. Unfortunately, many of those elected with Gingrich went back on their self-imposed term limits. A truly radical proposal would be a term limits and redistricting reform amendment to the constitution.

  3. Sandcrab says:

    Newt is one of the few Republicans with any name recognition that I would seriously consider voting for. McCain is mentally unstable, Frist is (probably) a crook and Giuliani is a RINO. If the Hildabeast is the Dimocrat nominee though, I would probably vote for ANYBODY the Republicans put up. And I totally agree with Mr. Phillip’s comment re Slick Willy.

  4. Mifod says:

    Newt is one of the few Republicans with any name recognition that I would seriously consider voting for.

    Probably the most unheraled Republican leader is Mayor Bloomberg of NYC. If he ran he would trounce anyone the Dems could throw at them.

  5. legion says:

    Wow. Mr “family values”, Contract-on-America Gingrich for Pres in ’08? That’d be as big a present to the Dems as running Hillary would be for the Repubs.

    Hell, if they both run, _I_ might be able to get elected as a ‘protest vote’…

  6. McGehee says:

    Gad, I’m agreeing with legion. Gingrich might have a shot at becoming President if he could somehow get to be Speaker again (well, it would probably take at least two shots), but that’s as close as he’d be able to get.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    Hillary vs. Newt in 2008 would put quite a few Americans on the horns of a three-fold dilemma: whether to vote Republican, Democrat, or move to Canada.

  8. Maggie says:

    Sandcrab, ditto on McCain. He just raises the hairs on the back of my neck. I understand the man had a really bad time in the Hanoi Hilton, but I think it took a toll that hasn’t fully materialized yet.

    Unfortunately, Gingrich has “issues” that won’t sit well with many voters. But he is certainly one of the few with a brain inside the beltway. The man is smart.