It’s the equivalent of a non-denial denial that we will, for our purposes, call a noncommittal confirmation. The Internet lit up this afternoon with word that Newt Gingrich might be considering a presidential run in 2012. A surprise, only because he’s the first GOP contender to allude to an interest in besting Obama. Yet it’s not huge news coming from Gingrich. That's partly because he didn’t actually announce he’d do anything. And also because “considering” a run for high office is Gingrich’s usual MO to grab the spotlight—especially when he’s got a book to sell, as he does now.
On its face, however, the prospect could be serious. Gingrich’s fiscal conservatism would certainly reverberate with a growing electorate weary of Democrats’ spending. As a deficit watcher of the '90s and counterbalance to the Clinton administration, he clearly has some experience confronting skyrocketing debt. His book, To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular, Socialist Machine, also takes a hit at the president’s social agenda.
But could he win? At this point, probably not. Folks like Gingrich and Sarah Palin are pitched as being the future of the fragmented Republican Party, uniting voices who can bring folks together with a common, general message. But the truth is that both sit too far to the right. Elections are won by in the middle, not the extremes. Victorious candidates like Obama or George W. Bush win because they figure out how to tap undecideds at the center of the spectrum. Winning votes of their base is a given.
Of course, even before Gingrich got to Obama, he’d have to outlast other GOP challengers, and with such similar stances on the issues, personality matters. There’s clearly a benefit in politics of having no paper trail. Just ask Elena Kagan. But Gingrich has virtually no skeletons in his closet because they’ve all already been revealed. He left his first wife while she was dying of cancer and cheated on his second wife (with his third wife). A platform of conservative family values could be a tough sell. He also avoided serving in the Vietnam War, a similar quality that left Bush vulnerable.
Naturally, it might end up not mattering at all. By announcing an interest in maybe, perhaps, jumping into the race in the distant future, candidates can test what people start saying about them, and whether donors get excited at the idea. It is, in effect, a way to get more attention without explicitly asking for it. The next eight months will be that period for Gingrich, before he decides whether to jump in the pool, or run back inside and write another book.
See our gallery of other possible 2012 GOP contenders here.