Perennial pundit favorite Newt Gingrich has spent years publicly toying with the idea of making an honest to god run for the presidency.
At The Democratic Strategist, Ed Kilgore observes that Gingrich has a long history of remaking himself just in time to take advantage of emerging trends amongst conservatives and Republicans:
. . . the lesson of Gingrich’s early years is that he has a jeweler’s eye for a political opening and a willingness to transform himself as necessary to exploit such opportunities when they arise. This could be one of those times: Because the 2012 Republican field is exceedingly weak in ways that would benefit Gingrich, he could end up in a surprisingly good electoral position if he decides to run.
Gingrich has some advantages over many of the potential Republican candidates – he isn’t tainted with Bush era failures, he’s smart, and while his personal life has been a series of disasters, disgraces and reversals, that isn’t necessarily a problem for conservative voters who would forgive him if he invokes a story of personal fall and retribution through faith (which he could do pretty convincingly). I also thing Gingrich could lay claim to governing gravitas – positioning himself as the senior statesman who who can float above the motley crew of jesters, bunglers and celebutantes who make up the rest of the field. It might work.
That’s the “It could happen argument.” What about the “What are smoking argument?”
Well, courtesy of Nate Silver, we get that argument pretty simply: Gingrich is one gaffe from moving above 50% in his unfavorable ratings, he’s not well loved by the Republican base; worse, he does badly in a match up against Barack Obama. To put it simply, Gingrich lacks base appeal and electability.
To me, the obvious path for Gingrich is the same one John McCain used – as the other candidates become increasingly non-viable, he emerges as a consensus candidate – nobody’s wild about him, but they can all agree they’ll support him. Not for nothing, I think Gingrich is easily smart enough to see that path available to him and to set himself up as the candidate everyone agrees on. Sure, Palin energizes but she helped deliver the White House to Barack Obama in 2008, Romney and Hunstman may be squeaky clean but they’re Mormons, Huckabee is very publicly self-destructing (and he released the murderer you know) and so on. But it repeats the Republican party’s 2008 problem – the head of the ticket just isn’t that beloved by the base and he gets lukewarm support which forces him to do things in the general that cost him swing voters and independents.