May 1, 2007
Gingrich Remains a Speaker, But Won’t Say Until September Whether He’s a Runner
By Marie Horrigan, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY
Though former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to hedge about his interest in joining the 2008 presidential election — saying he will wait until late September to decide — he is in demand on the Washington, D.C., media and speaking circuits. The longtime conservative firebrand, who led his party to a takeover of Congress in the 1994 “Republican revolution” elections, remains loquacious, brainy, often controversial and seldom dull.
He appears popular among a significant segment of Republicans around the United States as well: When his name has been added to preference polls of Republican voters taken since January, Gingrich has generally remained close behind the front-running two GOP candidates — former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain. He has vied for third place in those polls with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and more recently the hypothetical candidacy of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, the “Law & Order” actor who is considering entering the race.
Among those urging Gingrich to take the plunge is Steve Parkhurst, campaign manager for the DraftNewt.org movement, who said the former Speaker’s appeal extends beyond those who knew him from his days leading the House.High school and college students have joined the draft movement, which has members numbering in the thousands, Parkhurst said. Most students signing up with DraftNewt.org developed an interest after hearing him speak, whether at their university, on C-SPAN, at a youth leadership program or in a Webcast on his new site, American Solutions for Winning the Future.
With most of this group of Gingrich supporters too young to remember the 1994 campaign and the conservative “Contract with America” platform dreamed up by Gingrich, there is a sense of political reverence as well, Parkhurst said.
“A lot of them will act like the Contract with America’s like the Constitution of the United States, where it’s such an old document that they don’t remember it,” he said of young supporters. “So it’s definitely what Newt is doing recently that goes to him being a kind of figure from the past who’s all of the sudden resurrected.”
Gingrich has said he will not make a decision about whether to run until after a series of online debates in late September, scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of the Contract with America. Gingrich currently plans to hold two days of online meetings on the American Solutions site with supporters and will announce on Sept. 29 whether he intends to run for president.
He is using the American Solutions Web site to spearhead the efforts. Gingrich announced the creation of the organization last November and in a letter posted on the Web site explained that it was established to help work toward bipartisan solutions to the problems facing the country.
“If you want to focus on much more fundamental change than a presidential campaign by itself could possibly achieve, then American Solutions is a useful place to invest in a better future for your children, your grandchildren and your country,” Gingrich said in an open note on the Web site.
Speaking just before an address in Washington on Thursday, Gingrich said he felt no compunction to be president. That, in part, was why he was not concerned about whether September would be too late to enter the GOP field.
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t have to be president. I don’t have to be the nominee,” he told CQPolitics.com.
But, he added, front-runner status can be deceiving. He noted that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was sailing ahead of his Democratic compatriots in the run-up to the first-in-the-nation Iowa presidential caucuses in 2004. “He was the front-runner until three weeks before Iowa when regular Americans looked up and said, ‘That’s crazy,’” Gingrich said.
© 2006 Congressional Quarterly