Advancing a Free Society

A Race Newt-Ral Proposition

Friday, May 13, 2011

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made it official Wednesday night via Twitter and Sean Hannity’s Fox News show: he’s a candidate for president (here’s the video of said announcement).

No surprise there. Gingrich has been signaling a run for the past several weeks – sidetracked once when Donald Trump delved into the Obama birth certificate controversy . . . and overshadowed somewhat this week (especially in California) by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s surprise split.

So what’s Gingrich’s message? “[W]e can return American to hope and opportunity, to full employment, to real security, to an American energy program, to a balanced budget.”

Fair enough. But is he really a player?

I think there’s a simple litmus test for whether Gingrich is a first-tier candidate who merits serious attention, or a famous name sitting back in economy class with the rest of the unknowns.

That test: money.

As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, Gingrich hasn’t spent the past 13 years since he left the House wallowing in anonymity. He’s written books and narrated films, granted countless television interviews and given scads of speeches, trained candidates, and dabbled in advocacy and for-profit groups.

In the process, he’s amassed a list of some 1.7 million voter and donor contacts who anted up $32 million from 2009 to 2010 – as the WSJ notes, more than the other 20102 hopefuls combined.

So let’s do the math. If each of those friends kicked in $25 to Newt 2012, then the candidate would have a $42 million war chest. If “only” 100,000 admirers donated $100 apiece, then Gingrich would still have $10 million – i.e., seed money for the early states, but not much beyond that. So keep an eye on Gingrich’s finances to judge if his name recognition and familiarity translates to actual enthusiasm.

I believe Gingrich provides an invaluable service for Republican presidential hopefuls at this point in the election – especially in the absence of Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann. And that would be chief javelin-catcher. Simply put, no other candidate earns as much of the left’s scorn and ridicule and the mainstream media’s distrust and dislike – for reasons having to do with how Gingrich conducted both his speakership and his personal life back in the mid-1990’s.

That’s a good thing for a first-time candidate like Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Let Newt have the misfortune of suffering reporters’ slings and arrows.

(photo credit: Michael Righi)