Karl Rove's famously worked to turn his opponent's positives into negatives. Newt Gingrich, who will officially announce his 2012 candidacy Wednesday, appears to hope to be turn his negatives into positives. Will voters buy it? Let's consider two stories leading headlines about the former Speaker of the House on the eve of his big day. Back when Gingrich was impeaching President Clinton for his infidelity, he was sleeping with a 20-something congressional aide who was not his wife. Newt's not sorry about that seeming contradiction. He blamed the affair on being too patriotic. He's since married her, and, as The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports, is using Callista Gingrich as a central selling point for his candidacy in 2012.
Gingrich is also not sorry about pushing for appearing alongside Nancy Pelosi in a video advocating measures to curb climate change, Politico's Darren Samuelsohn reports. Unlike Tim Pawlenty, who calls his support of green legislation one of the great "clunkers" of his career, Gingrich is proud of the Pelosi spot and insists, "our country must take action to address climate change." The Associated Press writes that Gingrich "has been criticized as a glib political figure who is not long on consistency in public statements. ...[H]e was widely mocked recently for an about-face on Libya policy." Republican primary voters might be even more annoyed by his evolving position on the environment: "I'd do a commercial with Al Gore," Gingrich told Human Events a year ago. He's also referred to himself as a "green conservative," though when he was speaker of the House, he fought with then-President Clinton over not-so-green riders attached to spending bills, Samuelsohn notes. Now he wants to replace the Environmental Protection Agency with an "Environmental Solutions Agency."
Gingrich's candidacy "seems like it's a Back to the Future kind of thing," David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told the Boston Globe's Matt Viser. "Republicans want to move forward but the party always seems to want to bring out the old warhorses." Old warhorses can also be fun for the press, since they carry so much baggage. He may be no Donald Trump (more policy proposals,
less race-baiting) but he's one of the more colorful characters in the field of 2012 contenders.
The National Review's Jim Geraghty sees a tough road ahead for the Gingrich campaign, and "it will be fascinating to watch Gingrich as an actual declared candidate for president, a status he has never enjoyed/endured before"--even though he's been a perennial candidate for almost two decades. Though conservatives "shouldn't be surprised to see the New York Times kneecapping Newt before his official announcement," he writes, the first sentence of Stolberg's story is still jarring: "Callista Bisek’s friends from rural Wisconsin were stunned when, well over a decade ago, she confided that she was secretly dating an older, married man: Newt Gingrich." Geraghty observes, "Page A1. Welcome to the race, Newt!"
But The Daily Beast's Mark McKinnon, a former Bush staffer, says Gringrich can't win because he's too much like Obama:
"We already have a professor as president. And voters rarely replace someone with someone like them. Why would voters replace a senior law lecturer with a history professor, albeit one with a Ph.D.? In tough times, the country hungers for something new. Think about how different Barack Obama is from George W. Bush. George W. Bush from Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton from George H.W. Bush. Ronald Reagan from Jimmy Carter. And Jimmy Carter from Gerald Ford or Richard Nixon."
Even if Gingrich's changes are slim, McKinnon argues, he will still be good for throwing "grenades and make things blow up." And the press always loves that.