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Next in Line (Apparently) for GOP: Newt Gingrich

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
If support for Newt Gingrich picks up steam, it’s likely the former Speaker’s flaws will also receive attention once again, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

Conservatives and liberals attack each other’s political and personal weaknesses but tend to overlook the same warts and failings that their own politicians have, so it is possible that Gingrich’s supporters might treat criticism of him as unfair, strengthening their resolve to back him. That is what we have seen, after all, with some Cain supporters.

Gingrich can sometimes be frustrating to political advisers and maddening to those who admire his intellect. He seems to want to be president; he just doesn’t want to have to run for president.

Just weeks after launching his presidential bid, he and his wife left on a cruise to the Greek Islands. Anonymous advisers complained to the New York Times that Gingrich’s wife, Callista, “controls the schedule” and his strategists complained that the former Speaker refused to spend enough time on the ground in the early caucus and primary states.

One veteran Republican activist who likes Gingrich told me the other day that the problem with him is that for every brilliant idea he has, he has 99 other ones that are nuts. It is a comment I’ve often heard.

Gingrich is the ultimate entrepreneur, which is not a bad thing in the Republican Party.

I still remember trailing him and former White House spokesman Tony Snow as the three of us walked to take our seats on a small stage at a speaking event a number of years ago. 

Gingrich, as I recall, was giving advice to Snow, who had left government service because of his cancer, about the kinds of business deals that the former White House press secretary should consider. Gingrich rattled off a mind-boggling number of ventures and ideas, all of which he had already put into place for himself. I couldn’t help but be impressed by his creativity, but I recall being more than a little uncomfortable by his wheeler-dealer “Gingrich Inc.” approach.

Does Gingrich have the staying power that Bachmann and Perry didn’t? I’m not sure.

With a majority of Republicans still looking for an alternative to Romney, the opportunity on the political right that has existed for months still exists. Somebody is likely to fill it, and the number of alternatives is limited. Gingrich no longer can be counted out, but a new round of scrutiny of him is likely.

Momentum is more important than anything else in the nominating process, but so far, none of the alternatives to Romney has built up and kept much momentum. If Gingrich gets it, his prospects would improve dramatically.

But it is important to remember two things. First, the Iowa caucuses are still seven weeks away — a lifetime in politics. And second, the Romney campaign wasn’t built for the quick knockout. It was put together for a long, drawn-out fight, and it’s able to engage in multiple states at the same time.

So, the Republican roller coaster continues, even while the party’s nomination next year looks increasingly valuable.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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