alien & sedition.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
  Newt: Countdown to G-Day

Writing at the Weekly Standard, Matthew Continetti has a conservative take on that "Lincon-inspired" Cooper Union debate between Newt Gingrich and Mario Cuomo a couple weeks ago.

He also considers Newt's non-campaign campaign, as I've been calling it:
There is, believe it or not, a path by which Newt Gingrich could conceivably arrive at the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. The path starts where we are now, with Gingrich not declaring any sort of candidacy and refusing to shed light on his plans. What he has done instead is create a nonpartisan political organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future, that can spend unlimited sums of money under section 527 of the U.S. tax code. American Solutions, Gingrich says, will hold national workshops this September 27--the thirteenth anniversary of the Contract With America--and September 29. Then, on September 30--call it G-Day--Gingrich will "decide" whether to run for president. At which point there still will be about three and a half months before the first actual caucuses and primaries.
Continetti notes some of the advantages we've already suggested Gingrich holds: his strong numbers at CPAC despite the lack of a campaign, his "gut connection" with Republican voters, the shabby state of the rest of the GOP field. So where does he stand?
Among Republicans, the current wisdom concerning Gingrich has two parts. The first is that, come September, Gingrich will in fact decide to enter the race. "These guys always run," Murphy says. "It's what they do. It's like chimps picking up bananas. They can't help it." The second part is that Gingrich's impact will be limited to the presidential primary debates. Gingrich's understanding of conservative Republicans, this line of thinking goes, combined with his rhetorical powers, may set the terms of discussion and win support, but ultimately voters will choose to vote for either McCain, Giuliani, or Romney. Still, after watching Gingrich dominate the debates, conservative Republicans might just say to themselves, Why not . . . Newt?

"I think Newt's about nailed this," says Republican lobbyist Scott Reed, who ran Bob Dole's presidential campaign in 1996. "But when it comes to having an impact in the race . . . time will tell. This is a guy who doesn't need a big infrastructure. He's kind of a one-man band. He understands how to make news, he understands how to exploit his opponents' political weaknesses, and he's a happy warrior." Most important, Reed says, Gingrich has "always understood how to make a dramatic entry into politics."
Gingrich's schtick is his futurist intellectual (or pseudo-intellectual) mania. And his great skill is his ability to communicate politics at personal and historical levels. As Continetti observes, these factors set him apart:
Gingrich reveals himself as either a visionary or a pretender, a world-historical figure or a goof playing at the highest levels of national politics. Republicans--and Gingrich--tend to adopt the more favorable view. What no one can deny, however, is Gingrich's mastery of political language, his ability to appropriate words that connect with people's aspirations and fears, his ear for terms that resonate deeply in the mind and heart. Opportunity, prosperity, patriotic, winning, future, transformation, decay, system, evolution, appeasement, change. Gingrich combines them with his favorite adjectives and adverbs. Stunning, dramatically, fundamentally, very.
It's amusing how Gingrich and other conservatives have been going around saying that liberals have been winning the language wars, that conservatives' great flaw is not taking language seriously. These guys reinvented political language. They were more Orwellian than Orwell. Newt's faction is the Frank Luntz faction.

My own hope is that progressives can learn from the important innovations Gingrich brought to political communication, while avoiding Luntzian doublespeak. Luckily for us, bad ideas require a lot more doublespeak than do good ones.

At any rate, as much as I'm fascinated by Gingrich's political skills, I've had an inexplicably hard time taking him seriously as an actual presidential candidate. Continetti's article finally helps me understand why:
"There are operatives in politics, and there are candidates," says Mike Murphy. "Newt is an operative. Not a candidate."
He's a very effective operative, but I think this Murphy fellow is right: he's just not a candidate.

Of course, come G-Day, I may be proven wrong.

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