All this talk about Newt Gingrich is somehow reminding me of Fig Newtons (a little odd, I know). You might remember both the cookie and the politician from years ago. And it depends on your taste buds and your political preferences if you remember either fondly.
There’s been a landslide of news recently about the “surge” of Newt as a Republican presidential candidate.
In the latest round of polls, Gingrich has pulled ahead of Mitt Romney (27% vs 20% on average). Newt’s also doubling down efforts in South Carolina, which has backed the eventual winner in every Republican presidential primary race since Reagan.
So what should you know about Newt? He’s been on the public scene for a long, long time--here are some highlights:
- A former college history professor, Gingrich served as a Congressman from Georgia for 20 years (1978-1998)
- Co-author of Contract with America(1994), which laid out specific Republican promises on everything from taxes to crime to welfare
- Integral in Republicans winning control of the House in 1994, first time in 40 years
- Polarizing figure during the Clinton era: Served as Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999 and waged a budget showdown with Clinton that shut down the government in 1995
- Gingrich resigned in 1998 due to Congressional inquiry on ethics (tax issues)
While conservative, Gingrich often goes against the Republican grain. In a recent debate he advocated a “humane” immigration policy that could allow illegal immigrants who have been here a long time, living legitimate, working, tax-paying, non-criminal lives and raising families to stay here legally but not be on a path to citizenship--some times referred to as the Red Card Solution. President Clinton praised the idea while Republicans attacked it.
Gingrich may be surging in the polls (remember that Herman Cain did, too), but he has an uphill road even with some conservatives. He’s blamed by people in both parties for gutting Congress of people with historical and institutional expertise, for his ties to mortgage giant (and Republican bogeyman)Freddie Mac, a perception that he is undisciplined, and his rather unsettled personal life. He’s been under scrutiny for blurring the lines between lobbying and consulting. And he’s working with a new staff--most of his old campaign staff quit over the summer because of disagreements over the campaign.
That said, Gingrich certainly has the political acumen to give Romney, the assumed Republican candidate, a run for his money. Like Fig Newtons, Newt comes in many flavors.