The confirmation Tuesday that Newt Gingrich will explore a run for president was greeted by official Washington with a mixture of indifference, excitement and a general prediction that the former Speaker can’t win.
Georgia GOP Reps. Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston said Gingrich would find healthy support in the Peach State and from the GOP Congressional delegation in which he once served. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) also reacted positively to news that Gingrich is set to open a presidential exploratory committee. But Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), while welcoming Gingrich’s presence in the 2012 race, said flatly that the former Speaker would not win the GOP nomination.
“When you look at Newt, you see a person that’s bubbling over with ideas but not necessarily one who has the discipline to see those ideas carried through to finality,” said Burr, who was first elected to Congress in the 1994 Republican Revolution and served with Gingrich in the House. “Gingrich certainly brings excitement. I don’t see the former Speaker coming out of a primary contest as our nominee, but I wish him well.”
A Republican political operative based in Washington, D.C., added that Gingrich’s personal life could be a major obstacle in the primary, even as this individual described his potential candidacy as a positive development. The operative speculated that Gingrich might find some support among the large House GOP freshman class and praised his ability to generate conservative-minded proposals for addressing the nation’s pressing problems.
“I would figure many of the freshmen appreciate his abilities and credentials. But all know he has ethics liabilities and personal issues — three marriages, etc. — that run social conservatives crazy,” the GOP operative said. “Having said all of that, he is very bright, fairly conservative, with a few quirks, and we need ideas.”
Lungren indicated that Gingrich has already been reaching out to friends and former colleagues on the Hill.
“Newt’s a very good friend of mine. I saw him on swearing-in day. We were at a dinner with a large group. And after it was over he came over and said, ‘I need to talk to you because I may be coming close to a decision,’” Lungren recalled on Tuesday. “We’ve exchanged e-mails. He’s reaching out.”
One natural place for Gingrich to start in building his Hill support is the Peach State delegation.
“He has stayed in touch with the Georgia delegation, and I think he would find some ready support among the delegation,” Kingston said. “He has a big network [in the House]. ... Most people know and respect Newt. I would say it’s a rare Republican who hasn’t crossed paths with Newt Gingrich politically in their own campaigns.”
“I think he would carry the state. If he gets in the race I think he would lock down Georgia pretty quick. We’ll be with him,” Kingston added.