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What Niche Does Gingrich Fill?

The Twitter announcement that Newt Gingrich will announce his presidential run on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News makes official what everyone had long suspected. For those who have been following the former speaker since his days as a bomb-throwing member of a despised and powerless minority in the House of Representatives, this marks the culmination of a remarkable career. For decades, Newt Gingrich has been talking about big ideas, historical trends, and his vision of America’s place in the world. For him to have never run for president would have been somehow incongruous. He had to do it eventually.

But to note the inevitability of this moment says nothing about the viability of Gingrich’s candidacy. Granted, at this time in the election cycle, almost anybody could be said to have some chance to win the Republican nomination. Including those figures who have no intention of running. All the declared candidates are flawed for different reasons. Most put forward rationales for their decisions to run because they fill a certain niche of the political market, be it Tea Party activism, social issues, foreign policy expertise or even extremist libertarianism. But what niche does Gingrich fill, other than nostalgia for the 1990s?

All candidates have their personal baggage, but does anyone have as much as Gingrich? It is not just the personal philandering while at the same time seeking to impeach a president from charges related to the same shortcoming—although that will continue to haunt him. Gingrich may well have been the greatest minority leader in the modern history of the House of Representatives as he led a GOP group that no one thought had a chance to ever be a majority to a historic victory in 1994. But by the same token, he may have been one of the worst speakers in the history of the House, which is no mean feat considering some of his predecessors. Gingrich’s arrogance and petulance in that post was of historic dimensions.

The point is not that he has had his failures. He is far from unique in that respect. It is, rather, that his one moment in control of things was surely the least admirable portion of his public career. Some of the potential candidates have experience running states as former governors and they are counting on their successful terms in office to serve as the chief argument for their run for higher office. Others have no real executive experience but believe other factors outweigh this. But none has the distinction of being a man who has had one taste of power and proved himself to be utterly unequal to the task.

So long as his ability to speak is intact one shouldn’t count out Newt Gingrich completely. He is a great communicator and it should be interesting to watch him on the stump. His will likely be a campaign of ideas and that is always a good thing for any party, especially since many of his ideas have always been good ones though they are often unconnected to each other or contradictory. But no matter how articulate Gingrich may be, he’s going to have a hard time explaining why he, of all people, ought to be elected president.



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