At age 67, former United States Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is out campaigning for Republican candidates in early 2012 primary states, including South Carolina. Rumors abound that Gingrich, almost twelve years removed from holding office, is going to seek the highest office in the land in 2012.
Gingrich certainly has the resume and the contacts for such a run. The former House Speaker spent 20 years in Congress and has spent the last eleven years writing and lecturing about conservative ideas. Indeed, Gingrich has spent his entire adult life thinking about government and is perhaps the best conservative intellectual of the current times. Gingrich will not ever seem dumb, because he is not. Indeed, Gingrich created the Contract with America and the campaign strategy that returned Republicans to power in the House for the first time in decades in 1994.
That said, transferring that intellectual heft into electoral victory today is tricky at best. There are several factors going against Gingrich. Some of them are his own fault; others are simply the times and his age.
The factors going against Gingrich that are his own fault are easy to note. Gingrich has, to be kind, a colorful personal life, with three marriages. The former Speaker also was caught up in the House Bank check scandal of the early 1990s, and was fined $300,000 by the House Ethics Committee a few years later for ethical lapses. The Speaker’s tenure ended due to him not wanting to deal with a leadership challenge. All of that is his fault and will come up if the former Speaker runs for President.
Then there are factors that go against Gingrich that are outside his control. He will be 68 and a half when the first primaries are held in 2012. While Reagan won at 69, Reagan appeared like a John Wayne character in that he had some age on him, but people felt he could get the job done when it counted. Gingrich on the other hand, comes across as the old professor that he is. People might want to heed his wisdom, but turning the reigns over to him just does not come to mind.
Another factor is the embracement of ignorance. You read that line right. In both parties, people tend to want to vote for someone who knows little about government. Voters do not want to hear a well thought out argument on an issue. They will be surfing the net on their mobile phones halfway through Gingrich explaining something like monetary policy. The election of Barack Obama and even the nomination of Nikki Haley for Governor in South Carolina taught those who follow politics that the people need an entertainment factor or even a soap opera factor in these times. They need their emotions played to, even in the Republican Party. Gingrich, frankly, has too big of an intellect to do that. Simply put, it is difficult to see how a man in his late sixties who wants to have an intellectual discussion about the issues can win in today’s politics.
That is why is seems to VUI that the Presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich will be limited to conservative and Republican pundits who long for the past, when intelligence and reason were the mark of the Republican Party. But, in the world of Obama-gasms and Palin Power, an intellectual like Gingrich will be lucky to get 10 percent in the New Hampshire primary.