The rollercoaster race for the 2012 Republican nomination has been characterized by the swift ascent, brief peak and lightening fast demise of almost all the candidates. The exception has been Mitt Romney, who has remained steadily in the top tier, if not in the frontrunner slot.
The latest candidate to challenge Romney’s steadfast candidacy is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. In a November 13-15 Fox News poll of Republican voters nationwide, results showed Gingrich and Romney running neck-in-neck.
Gingrich has catapulted to the top tier as a result of growing support among tea party activists and anti-establishment conservatives. Ironically, with the exception of Congressman Paul, Gingrich has the most elected office experience of any of the GOP candidates. Gingrich served in the US House from 1979-1999 including a stint as Speaker.
He resigned from the House in 1999 in the midst of a borderline mutiny by House Republicans and a series of ethics questions. Gingrich was widely blamed for Republicans losing 5 seats in the 1998 midterm elections, the worst performance in 64 years for a party that didn’t hold the presidency in the previous election.
Despite his polarizing leadership in the House, Gingrich’s voting record on pro-life issues reflected the consensus pro-life views of the majority of Americans.
Gingrich voted in favor of a ban on partial-birth abortion. (President Clinton ultimately vetoed the bill and a ban was not signed into law until President Bush took office.) Gingrich also voted to cut federal funding to organizations that perform or promote abortions abroad, including the United Nations Population Fund, which is complicit in carrying out China’s One Child Policy. In addition, Gingrich supported restrictions on funding for assisted suicide.
In the 2012 presidential race, Gingrich has pledged to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court, end taxpayer funding of abortion, de-fund Planned Parenthood and sign into law a federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Gingrich is also committed to repealing the pro-abortion Obama healthcare law, which contains massive abortion funding and threats of rationing.
On Gingrich’s campaign website he lists the executive orders he would sign on his first day in office if elected president. Two of these include reinstating the pro-life Mexico City Policy and restoring conscience clause protections for pro-life healthcare workers.
On the issue of conscience protections, Gingrich’s website states; “No American working in a medical environment should be forced to perform any procedure that he or she finds morally or ethically objectionable based on religious teaching. This protection should include, but not be limited to abortion. Existing conscience clause protections need to be strengthened.”
While Newt Gingrich has worked to reassure pro-life advocates that he is on their side, many remain wary after questionable actions taken while Speaker of the House. During the 1993 debate over the Hyde Amendment (which bans funding for abortion in HHS appropriations).
Congress, under the direction of President Clinton, inserted exceptions for rape and incest. After Republicans regained House control in 1994, legislation was put forth to allow states to decline funding for abortion in cases of rape and incest. Speaker Gingrich was quoted on March 2, 1995 as supporting this amendment but pro-life House members hold that in actuality, Gingrich was affirmatively blocking this effort behind the scenes.
Gingrich biographer Dick Williams documented the Speaker’s aversion to pro-life legislation in his 1995 bio, Newt: Leader of the Second American Revolution:
“At a conference in Atlanta in April, 1995, Gingrich was asked about abortion. “I believe most Americans are pro-choice and anti-abortion.” A murmur ran through the mostly conservative audience. He quieted it by insisting on putting values first in lawmaking and suggesting that alternatives to abortion such as adoption must be promoted and their costs eased. Still, the answer sounded to many like President Clinton’s 1992 convention speech at which he said abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare.”
Gingrich is opposed to abortion but does not believe the nation is ready to enact a constitutional ban. In the first three months of 1995, while the Contract With America was being debated, he angered some Republican congressmen by detouring them from anti-abortion amendments to bills and by putting aside their arguments that a welfare reform package might lead to an increase in abortions.” (p. 182)
Since the 1990’s, Gingrich has remarried, had a spiritual awakening leading to his conversion to Catholicism and matured as a person. He told audiences in Georgia last week he “is slower and more disciplined” and that he has learned to let “larger teams carry the load.” The new Newt Gingrich appears to be much more qualified to lead than he was in the 1990’s. He also appears to be much more willing to work with pro-life advocates.
Gingrich’s insurgent candidacy, which has benefited from the demise of both Cain and Perry, has been bolstered by solid debate performances. However, it remains to be seen whether he can maintain his standing among such a demonstrably indecisive Republican electorate.