Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Newt's new PAC

Since leaving office after the 1998 elections, Newt has only started groups that advocated certain policies and had no hand in elections. Shortly, however, he will be starting a political action committee, with the same name as his 527: American Solutions. The goal of the PAC will be to support candidates who stand and fight for the policies that the 527 advances.

American Solutions raked in the third-most dollars -- 22.7 million -- of all 527s in 2008. And since it's inception three-plus years ago, $38 million.

Starting a PAC is often a sign of gearing up for a presidential run. When combined with his usual barnstorming of the country for candidates this year -- "Gingrich said that wants to be active for GOP candidates in the '10 midterm elections" -- he will have a lot of goodwill built up among elected Republicans, as well as getting a chance to talk to voters. And the latter's importance cannot be understated.

Pollster Frank Luntz, who worked with Gingrich on the Contract with America, found that when people in his focus groups during 2006 heard Gingrich, they "ignored, or in some cases forgot, the controversial nature of Gingrich's speakership," as Matthew Continetti wrote. "The words he spoke were like nothing they had heard from anyone else," Luntz says. "While he didn't start either session with any measurable support, he ended both Iowa and New Hampshire sessions with the most new converts."

That is important because despite staying in the headlines pretty consistently in the eleven years since resigning as speaker, a Pew Research Center poll found that 26% of the public is undecided about him. His favorability split is 35/38, but if the remaining quarter of the electorate -- as well as "soft" opposition -- find his message as appealing as the focus groups that did not come in as Gingrichites, he could improve those numbers a lot. Having a full debate of the issues over the course of 2011 would likely benefit him more than any other candidate heading into Iowa and New Hampshire in the early part of 2012.

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