Sunday, February 21, 2010

Liberal political scientist: Gingrich could be a formidable opponent for Obama

Analyzing Gingrich's CPAC address, Thomas Schaller -- a political scientist at a Maryland unversity who has been published in, among other publications, The New York Times and The Washington Post -- says on that Newt "(a) is the darkhorse 2012 candidate who could very well win the GOP nomination; and (b) could, if nominated, present a formidable challenge to Barack Obama's re-election."

On another website, Schaller expanded on his thoughts:
Gingrich may be the one candidate who can appeal equally to both mainstream and Washington Republicans, as well as the outsider, conservative wing of the party….He has a track record for knowing how to beat Democrats. And whatever one thinks about some of his futuristic ideas, he’s at least a guy with a vision and some fresh thoughts about policy -- as opposed to the rest of the Republicans with their tired mantras about cutting taxes, smaller government and family values. And you can be sure Gingrich will never be a deer-in-the-headlights during a debate or press conference.
Schaller added in yesterday's column, "Gingrich is an ideas guy -- a recent National Journal poll of Washington insiders ranked him the GOP's most 'creative thinker' -- and he is more credible on foreign policy and defense than Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, combined."

On Gingrich's weaknesses, he writes that besides the personal baggage, his biggest one may be the way he speaks, which goes against the grain of today's thirty-second sound bites and pandering lines. "His erudition, policy command and historical references may be assets when he's on a panel at the Heritage Foundation or AEI, but it just doesn't work at events like his speech today to attendees at the Conservative Political Action Committee national meeting," Schaller writes. "In little more than a half hour, Gingrich managed to reference the Judiciary Act of 1802, Camus’ The Plague, Orwell’s 1984, Hayek’s notions of centralized planning, and John Paul II. I was waiting for him to announced that copies of the speech's footnotes would be available in the lobby."

However, while some may not respond to such a speech, many people -- including a lot of conservatives -- are hungry for a more in-depth discussion of issues than what passes as political debate today. Gingrich has been urging for years a complete reformation of the presidential debate process, to a system in which the discussion is more free-flowing and not bottled up by moderators. In that spirit, he and former New York Democratic governor Mario Cuomo sat at Cooper Union, site of one of Abraham Lincoln's greatest speeches, and showed how the new debate process would work.

Here is a four minute-plus sampling of the Cooper Union event:

(Full video here:

Though Schaller does not mention it, Minnesota governor and likely 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty gave one of the most silly statements that an aspiring national leader could. A National Review contributor summed it up: "[W]hen I read that the governor 'appealed to the tea-party movement, calling its critics a 'brie-eating' elite from 'Ivy League schools' who don't like 'Sam's Club Republicans' who 'actually like shopping at places like Wal-Mart,' I thought just one thing: The guy's a phony. And patronizing, too. Good grief."

Wrapping up the piece, Schaller opines: "[Gingrich] can, in short, position himself as the candidate who has proactive ideas and can convince the country that Republicans can ably run the government rather than just obstruct it. That will be a lecture worth hearing."

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