Gingrich has managed to keep himself in the public eye since leaving the House, but the blitz of public appearances in recent months is reminiscent of the run-up to 2007, when he toyed with a presidential run only to abandon it before the primaries began. Now, some are speculating that the former congressman from Georgia is laying the groundwork for a White House bid in 2012.Why not?
Newt's smart, he has a lot of big ideas (just ask him), and he's good at identifying issues that play well for Republicans. Gingrich was behind the "Drill Here, Drill Now" slogan that temporarily played well for Republicans during the 2008 campaign. Newt is also popular with activists and would be the most prominent candidate of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Of course, conservative activists found out in 2008 that they're not a majority of the Republican Party when they couldn't defeat John McCain. But Gingrich doesn't need a majority. He might be expected to pull down as much as 30-35% of the primary vote and that would be enough to win the early states comfortably and nail down the nomination by February or March of 2012.
I'm sure Gingrich has already made this calculation. That's why he's "out there hustling" according to Grover Norquist and also why he's on "nearly every Republican short list" for the 2012 nomination.
Newt's main weakness is that non-conservatives dislike him. In 2007, his unfavorability ratings were over 40% and were up as high as 56% during the 1995 budget debacle. Of course, that means that the Obama camp isn't exactly shaking in their boots at the thought of running against Gingrich. But it need not matter in running for the Republican nomination. Like George Bush, Gingrich is popular among Republicans despite unpopular with everybody else. Moreover, it's not like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, or Mark Sanford have all that much appeal themselves.
Gingrich wouldn't have much chance of beating Obama in a general campaign, but he would be a viable "bridge" candidate until the next generation of Republicans is ready for serious presidential bids.
Do I hear a "Run, Newt, Run" chant?