As Digby points out, Newt Gingrich's sudden desire to play the good cop is driven almost entirely by his personal political calculations. Newt's rise to power consisted largely of being in the right place when white Southerners stopped voting for Democrats for all federal elections, not just the President, and demagoguing things like midnight basketball and welfare reform (in fairness, Newt had plenty of targets, the most famous of which is somehow blaming liberal Democrats for Susan Smith killing her children). He has made some effort to get black Republicans elected, but as you can tell from the Republican caucus, it hasn't had much effect.
But if you are a Republican and wanted to win elections without changing your platform, Newt's your man. The easiest way to do maintain the party's policy status quo would be to win the Presidential nomination and then say to the country "I'm not as racist as those mean ol' Democrats say I am" and then maybe put together a 2000-era Bush tax cut where you have mammoth tax cuts for the rich, "but I'll get my $300". If you can find a few African-American Republicans and give them prominent roles in your campaign and convention it might work. For the Republican donor class and conservative apparatchiks who are still heavily invested in Bushism, that's a much more palatable path to victory the embracing a Grand New Party/Christian Democrat approach or a Teddy Roosevelt-esque small-but-effective tack. Fear Newtism, for it is perhaps the only way Republicans can end up in power while still leaving in place the ideas and people who have wrecked the country over the last decade-plus.
Outside of the Republican donor and political class though, do you think Newt actually has a significant base of support? If I remember correctly, he left the House a deeply unpopular figure, and it wouldn't take much to remind Americans about Newt's failures as a legislator.
That said, if Newt does make a run for president in 2012, and builds a significant base of support within the party, I think you might see another pretty vicious fight as GNP-esque Republicans like Mike Huckabee, culture warriors like Palin, and defenders of Bushism all vie for party leadership.
I think he is going to try for an Al Gore-style reinvention.
The flip side of this is that Newt will be 71 in 2012, so I'm not really sure I see where this is going. Maybe we will see Huckabee-Gingrich?
Or, I suppose the other alternative is that Newt could find a better messager for his message, maybe some otherwise orthodox conservative with a compelling personal story. Eric Cantor, who's got an interesting bio but an uninteresting voting record. Johnny Isakson ... I dunno.
Huckabee-Gingrich would be interesting/terrifying/an electoral failure. I think your second option is probably more likely, Eric Cantor sounds like a good choice, I could also see Gingrich working well with Bobby Jindal or even someone like South Carolina's governor, Mark Sanford.
It would have been funnier if you'd used the foot massager line there.
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