November 20, 2006
POLITICS: Newt Running His Ideas For President
Hopes Voters Will Want The Man, Too
Fortune magazine looks at Newt Gingrich's strategy to win in 2008:
"I'm going to tell you something, and whether or not it's plausible given the world you come out of is your problem," he tells Fortune. "I am not 'running' for president. I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen." So he's running, only without yet formally saying so.
While other potential competitors like Arizona Senator John McCain, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney build staff and hire consultants, Gingrich revealed to Fortune that he plans to create a draft-Newt "wave" by building grassroots support for his health care, national security and energy independence ideas--all of which he has been peddling to corporate audiences over the past six years. "Nice people," Gingrich says of his GOP competitors. "But we're not in the same business. They're running for president. I'm running to change the country."
"My hope is to create a wave that sweeps through that entire system, and in a context that obviously includes the presidency. Even if he's not the nominee, Gingrich says he plans to throw the weight of what he's built behind a "winning-the-future presidential candidate."
In other words, Newt has adequately assessed his main strength as a candidate (his ideas, which are often spot-on and always provocative) and his main weakness (Newt's own unpopularity and personal failings), and is running a "movement" campaign. Will it work?
Most "movement" candidates end up losing (even ones like Reagan in 1976 who later get the brass ring), and I'm sure that Newt knows that. The key question for an idea-driven "movement" candidate is whether he can gain sufficient traction to compel the ultimate nominee (or future nominees of the party) to adopt some of his ideas. Thus, Barry Goldwater in 1964 ran a movement, won the nomination, got crushed in November - but future GOP nominees adopted his philosophy. Thus, Steve Forbes ran a movement campaign in 1996 and 2000 that prompted both Bob Dole and George W. Bush to embrace major tax cuts and Bush to press (with varying degrees of vigor) other elements of the Forbes platform, like private Social Security accounts, school choice and health care savings accounts. Thus, key elements of Ross Perot's 1992 campaign platform - notably his emphasis on balanced budgets - were adopted by both the Contract for America and the Clinton Administration. Thus, social and religious conservative campaigns have often held GOP nominees' feet to the fire on social issues. Candidates like George McGovern, Jesse Jackson, Jerry Brown and Howard Dean have played similar roles on the Left, although perhaps with less influence on their party's successful candidates, who have mainly been those who avoided embracing those ideas.
The odds against Newt '08 remain prohibitively long - one would search long and hard for evidence that a majority of the general electorate remains open to persuasion by Newt - but the terrain of the current candidate field is enormously favorable to an influential Gingrich candidacy. With George Allen having essentially self-destructed, the field as it sits features three main frontrunners (Giuliani, McCain and Romney) whose past records or rhetoric paint them as varying degrees of moderate. All three will be focusing much of their attention on convincing skeptical conservative primary voters that they will, in fact, govern close enough to mainstream conservatism to be worth following into battle. Several of the lower-tier potential candidates (Huckabee, Frist, Pataki, Hagel) also have major vulnerabilities on their right flank. And with Jeb Bush and others like Haley Barbour sitting this one out, the roster of possible conservative champions are mainly little-known, haven't gotten started yet, are unlikely to run, or have limited appeal (Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Mark Sanford, Tim Pawlenty, Tom Tancredo, Mike Pence, etc.).
But politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and Newt's name recognition guarantees that if no standard-bearer emerges to unite the GOP's Right, he can stay in the race as long as it takes to force the eventual frontrunner to deal with his ideas. Which is good to know. Because like it or not, sometimes the best candidate for a particular campaign may not be a lifelong movement conservative. But successful general election campaigns are run on clear and principled platforms that represent the prospective administration's promises, and not just the natural inclinations of the presidential or vice-presidential nominee. Thus, the reality that the best person for the job may not be the most conservative should not prevent the primary season from putting conservative ideas and priorities on the national agenda for 2009-2012.
I wanted to comment when the comments stopped commenting about one of your comments (Sorry Crank, I have a lot of comments to make up for--oh, I did it again, eki eki eki). Anyway....
One thing I thought after the election (aside from glee that the sides changed, and may that always happen), was that the real reason the Republicans lost was the pact they made to the devil. In this case, the devil was the evangelicals, and the pact they broke with was Newt Gingrich. Newt is a Conservative, but not a religious fanatic. He's not necessarily the nicest guy in the world, and possibly among the worst husbands, but you don't want you rleaders to be priggishly perfect; intelligent competence will do nicely.
Politics is, and always will be, in a democracy or republic, a messy compromise. It has to be. One reason Clinton was hated by the right was his ability to compromise, to take some of their agenda and run with it. The evangelicals, by nature of what they are, cannot compromise. Simply can't. Abortion is a great example of this. None allowed. Zip. Nada. You mentioned it yourself Crank, when you pointed out the belief of some that abortions is what is causing all this "illegal migration" to jobs. Unless you also admit that idea a few years ago that abortions also then reduced the crime rate, which the right tossed off as absurd (your argument in this case), then neither side is valid.
I think Newt would make a serious candidate, but isn't viable. Look, I am clearly not a right winger, but I am willing to admit he is intelligent and engaging, with a lot of valid opinions. And frankly, I think, and always did, think more of him than I did of the Cheyney wing. I think much of the country think he is too conservative for them--actually I don't think he is as conservative as the press has painted him, but politics is impression after all. Look at Guiliani. How we forget how we in NY started getting tired of him. Not his legacy; I for one will always honor his belief that streets could be safe. And is does seem now that he did indeed deserve the credit that Bratton got (or maybe LAPD is so endemically corrupt that noone can save it).
I think I learned a lot in this election and the biggest thing I learned was that you can not sacrafice your principles and ideals to try and help along a political agenda. When you do that you do not force your selected political party to bring forward its best and brightest and stick to an agenda. I WILL NO LONGER VOTE FOR OR SUPPORT CANDIDATES FOR POLITICAL OFFICE, AT ANY LEVEL, WHO ARE NOT TRUE CONSERVATIVES.
Missouri had a candidate that perfectly fit this scenerio. Jim Talent was from what everyone I talked to, a nice guy who claimed to be Conservative. A true Conservative does not vote for bills that they do not support on the Senate floor that provide political cover. An example of this was Minimum Wage legislation. Talent voted for this in the Senate because he was sure it would not pass and therefore he could come back to Missouri and claim he had voted for a minimum wage hike. That is one a several things that cost him his job and Republicans control of the Senate.
A true Conservative would have voted against this bill because he realized it was not good for the country and then come back to Missouri and defended his position by educating the people of Missouri on how it would hurt them and stifle job growth not only is Missouri, but accross the country. An example of the educating that needed to be done comes from the ballot amendment to the state Constitution that passed with 75% of the vote.
Conservatives, whether it be Newt or some other candidate, need to step forward and be counted. By adhering the true Conservative priciples the House and Senate can be taken back in '08 and the Presidency retained, but my personal opinion is that the Republican party has not learned their lesson yet and '08 will not be a good year either.
Talent is a pretty bad example if you are looking at apostates from the conservative cause. Everyone makes compromises, and he was on the whole an exemplar of a principled conservative Senator.
Irish, your capped demand on how perfect your candidates must be is exactly why the Republicans lost. As I said, the Evangelicals demand such perfection (well, maybe not in their own behavior, trust me, they cheat and divorce at the same rate, 33-34% as everyone--it's not 50%, since most people who divorce, will do so again, so the number of people who divorce is in the 1/3 range). And frankly, most Americans DON'T want their elected officials to be so perfect. It's kind of scary.
I think what we all want really is a Mike Bloomberg type. Someone who really doesn't care what party you belong to, and speaks lots of common sense, while telling you where to go when you sound stupid. Maybe 35-40% of the electorate demand priggish perfection. That leaves 60-65% who know it ain't happening. And when you win by 55-50%, it's called an historic landslide.
Bloomberg's not going anywhere. Last poll I saw said he would draw 35% or so in NYC, which is the heart of his base.
There are fewer people in the "middle" than you think, if the middle represents a specific set of policies - a lot of the people who don't buy the party line in either party are dissenters on all different kinds of issues, so they don't agree with each other any more than people within the parties do.
For the record, while the GOP did sustain some damage from social issue stands like stem cells and the Schiavo case, I think the main domestic policy lesson is that the party failed to live up to its conservative principles, esp. on spending.
Check out John Podhoretz in today's NYPost re: Giuliani and his appeal to conservatives. I think there's something to it.
I am, at least for now, pretty solidly in the Rudy camp. That said, the answer to Podhoretz is to look at the record of two previous presidents who glossed over the mistrust of their base with the loathing of their enemies - Nixon and Clinton.
Crank, a Conservative who can not make his case is not of much use to the party, the country or his supporters. The closest I ever heard Talent come to making a stand was in a TV political ad. Lets face it, you stake positions in person and support those positions in ads.
Rudy has a big advantage over everyone else. We all know he doesn't lose his cool in a real crisis; losing your temper over disagreements is different. We were all kind of tired of him here after 8 years. Plus he wanted to stay after his second term was up. We can do without that, but I doubt he's changed. He would make a better chief of staff I think.
And Crank, I was not pushing for Bloomberg per se, but someone like him.