After nothing that John McCain was in a similar position in the polls at this point in 2007, Smith writes:
Newt should never ever be underestimated.
There is a reason that Newt is the only candidate who hasn’t been openly criticized by the rest of the GOP field and why several of them publicly stated that he’d be their choice for Vice President. There is a deep reverence for his intellect. They know that he’s the “GOP godfather”.
Most political figures, whether by election or as insider staffers, are either policy wonks or savvy strategists. Newt is a very rare combination of both.
Newt balanced the nation’s budget and passed welfare reform during his tenure as Speaker —an impressive resume to bring to the 2012 primary job interview considering the voters’ woes over federal spending. That’s why he knows what he’s talking about when he says: “The best social program is a job.”
He knows how to win and how to put together a ground game. He created the 1994 Contract with America and used it to usher in the first Republican majority in the House of Representatives in 40 years.
Newt was largely behind the anti-card check fight of 2009, and during the 2008 election cycle, he penned the phrase: “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” (DHDN) which he developed into a book on energy independence policy. Literally millions of people signed his DHDN pledge and mobilized across the country calling on the U.S. to end its dependence on foreign oil.
Newt has no lack of specificity in public policy, and America has discovered that every aspect of it is tied back to the economy from energy production to health care to social security, to immigration, to job creation and taxation.
Whether in his books, his legislative record, or in many of his policy initiatives, Newt is the only person running who has provided thorough analyses on those issues. He even publicized the Executive Orders he would issue on his first day in the White House.
No doubt, I am grateful to have had a privilege given to very few in politics: I sat at the feet of one of the greatest thinkers in modern-day political history– or, as anyone who has been in the former House Speaker’s inner circle knows, he prefers to just be called: “Newt”.
During the time I worked for Newt, I was amazed at how often elected officials from all over the country sought out his guidance. One of whom was Rep. Paul Ryan, and another was then Wisconsin GOP Chairman and now RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus.
The notion that Newt was “against the Ryan plan” was nonsense. Perhaps it was a bit ill-timed, but Newt showed his classic political prowess when he called for a plan that could pull in conservative Democrats as well as Republicans. He never said to eliminate the conservative tenets of the plan. He encouraged the House GOP to wait for the appropriate time to introduce it and thereby ensure its passage. Newt knows how to get bold, sweeping pieces of legislation passed when you don’t control the White House, and he was trying to drop some knowledge on some of the “2010 rookies”.
As it turns out, Newt was right. He usually is.
That incident bruised his campaign, but it didn’t kill it. The Daily Beast’s Matt Latimer wrote a few weeks back that if Newt could just “…erase his campaign’s first two weeks from voters’ memories, Men in Black–style, he would be in an enviable position…”
Since Matt’s comments, Newt has indeed begun to erase the first two weeks of his campaign from voters’ memories—hence the recent poll climb—and the media has taken notice.
GOP grassroots activists have proven that regardless of who the media elite crowns “frontrunners”, they will catapult their preference to the top (see Herman Cain). Saying that you “can win the general election” is not going to be enough. America’s economy is so hurt that the frustration from both sides of the aisle (see: Wall Street protesters and the Tea Party) is reaching a boiling point.
Tossing political grenades is great. (Newt knows it and is quite good at it.) However, unless there is substance behind it, it will quickly fail, and in a “contest on substance,” I’d place my bets on Newt.
Newt has famously reinforced to Republicans that the United States is a center-right country.
After leading the GOP to the “House Majority Promised Land”, he said: “It’s not a Republican victory. It’s not a Democrat victory. It is the American people making a set of choices.”
No one since his Speakership has really capitalized on that and/or used it to promote policies in the way that he did. In this manner, Gingrich is the closest candidate to former President Ronald Reagan of the entire current GOP field.
His current ideas, including the 1994 and 2011 Contracts with America, are backed by extensive research and polling among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents which conclude that the majority of Americans agree with those policies.
The 2012 cycle still needs a “big idea”, and no one knows this better than the GOP-coined “ideas man of the right”, Newt Gingrich AKA the “GOP Godfather”.