Thursday, March 3, 2011

And So It Begins...with a Newt?

So today was the day that all political junkies have been waiting for. The first entrance into the Republican primary field to unseat President Obama. Well almost. Today Newt Gingrich announced that he is in what can be describes as a so-called "explore phase" for running for President and has formed a new fundraising committee aptly titled Newt Exploratory 2012 (He has also started a new website which you can find here: Translation? Instead of forming an official exploratory committee, subject to federal regulations, he wants to avoid those silly Federal Election Committee rules that would limit his ability to use money made via his various commercial interests and his non-profit 527, the infamous American Solutions for Winning The Future, for travel and advocating for his candidacy. Fox News (a.k.a. known the most awesomest cable news network) has already suspended his one million dollar a year contributor contract, a very lucrative thing just to give up for "exploring" running for President. I think we can safely assume that he's going to be in it for the long haul. The real question on my mind? Can Newt grab our party's nomination?

Well judging based upon the way Newt's first staged public event of the primary cycle, he's really going to need this head start. This week showed a lack of discipline from Newt's political circle as there was confusion among most of the political chattering class about the exact nature of today's event. Politico (a.k.a the most awesomest political website ever) says it best.

Shortly before the trip to Atlanta, longtime Gingrich adviser Joe Gaylord had said that the former House Speaker would open “exactly that, an exploratory committee” - but five hours later, Gingrich’s spokesman, Rick Tyler, sent out a press release stating that no such announcement would be made.

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It also worth noting that at today's press conference, he only took one question (Are you running for President in 2012?). He gave a carefully staged answer before rushing from the podium. Now, there was nothing remotely wrong with the answer he gave. He said that he was still deliberating and articulating his vision of the country he would like to see. Actually he carefully ticked off all the things we conservatives like to hear: a belief in reducing the size of government, cutting the unemployment rate, raising personal income, and restoring the belief in American exceptionalism, proclaiming that "America's best years are ahead of of us". The fact that he rushed off stage after one softball question raises doubts in my mind in his self- confidence to go off the cuff. This plays right into Gingrich's critics who say that the former House Speaker, who led the Republican Revolution in 1994, seems to still lack the discipline and natural political instinct needed for the two year campaign for the presidency. The same lack of discipline that most political observers point to in his PR defeats to Bill Clinton over the government shutdowns and his eventual political implosion in 1998. 

The second problem seems to rest with his tumultuous personal life. He happens to be on marriage number three. Gingrich and his wife, Callista, actually had an affair while he was still married to his second wife. Complicated stuff, I know. Personally, I don't care. Recognizing the numerous faults within myself, I have a policy of preventing myself to disqualify someone for public office simply because of their past personal mistakes. I try to just look squarely at who I like (cause let's face it, emotional connection and approval of a candidate matter in elections) and who I feel can do the best job for my city, my state, and my country. Unfortunately for Newt Gingrich, Christian Evangelicals in Iowa may feel a tad bit differently on the morality of his marriage. Ironically, one of the reasons that I dislike Gingrich has to do with the same issue (for a very different reason). Being a gay individual, who hopes to be in a committed relationship/civil union/marriage, I cannot understand his opposition to my rights, especially the right to marriage. To claim that allowing me to marry who I love would somehow devalue the institution of marriage, while his two divorces and affair have not... I find difficult to reconcile. It is hypocritical and gives him little legitimacy on the issue. You can forcefully disagree with me on gay marriage and it's effect on the institution, but you will be hard pressed to disagree with the the latter point. 

Even though I feel that Newt Gingrich is the wrong candidate to carry and represent our party in 2012, as we try to beat back the massive expansion of government (Obamacare, The Auto Bailouts, The "so-called" Stimulus) that has occurred under President Obama, there's no doubt that he has quite the intellect. Everyone seems to agree that his ability to construct and analyze policy from a conservative point of view is nearly unrivaled. He has strong convictions and beliefs when it comes to the role this country should play in the world and how to get the economy back on track. While Speaker of the House, he worked with a Democratic President on welfare reform and produced balanced budgets from Congress that helped set up the budget surpluses at the end of the 90's. He has political capital to spend in this climate of fiscal austerity, and could very well leverage those accomplishments into support among the tea party and fiscal conservatives, as social issues seem to be fading into the background (to the dismay of many social conservatives) in this upcoming election cycle. 

The questions that he has to answer for Republican Primary voters are simple. Can he openly talk about his personal skeletons? Can he be presidential? Can he be measured in his words and actions? Can he play the political game and not fumble? Can he win? All I know is that the Republican Primary will be unlike any others that we have seen in recent political history. 

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