Thursday, May 5, 2011

Examining Bob McDonnell's claim that Newt is "most important Republican" besides Reagan in last 50 years (hint: he's right).

Virginia Governor and possible 2012 Vice Presidential pick Bob McDonnell had this exchange the other day:
New York Times: Other than Reagan, the most significant Republican in the last half-century.

McDonnell: Newt Gingrich. That Contract with America really changed the way Republicans approached government -- positive, problem solving, solutions and then getting things done.

I think that was a phenomenal turnaround.
Of course, McDonnell is not alone in that view. Lee Edwards -- who worked on Barry Goldwater's campaign, has been a long-time scholar at the Heritage Foundation, and is perhaps the preeminent historian of the conservative movement -- also says that.

The Republicans have had other Presidents in that time span -- Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush -- but none led to as many conservative policy victories as Newt nor did they help bring a political realignment along.

He set out when he was first elected to Congress in 1979 to help bring down the Democrat House majority that had become entrenched and corrupt. Edwards recalls that Newt was all but called insane for arguing Republicans could capture the House. Having done what many thought impossible, Newt followed that up with balancing the budget four years in a row -- while enacting tax cuts and rebuilding our military at the same time -- and reforming welfare.

While being the most influential Republican besides Ronald Reagan in the last half century is not reason alone to be the next GOP Presidential nominee, it is also not to be diminished. Roll Call put it this way:
In noting Gingrich’s accomplishments as a Member, [Gingrich spokesman] Tyler telegraphed what could be a campaign messaging strategy to contrast the former Speaker’s record of concrete achievement at the federal level versus his opponents’ 'rhetoric' of as-yet-unfulfilled promises.
Every Republican running for the White House will talk of balancing the federal budget but only one actually has. And if Newt reminds people of his accomplishments -- almost half of the electorate, either due to being too young in the 90s or other reasons, is not even aware Newt was Speaker -- he will get a chance to balance it again. This time at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

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