Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to launch an exploratory committee in the next two weeks that would help him gauge whether or not he want to mount a full-fledged bid for the GOP nomination for president.
Republican officials told the Associated Press on Sunday that Gingrich, the former House Speaker, would make a decision about the exploratory committee after spending months traveling to key primary election states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
If Gingrich does launch the committee, which allows him to raise and spend funds without becoming an official presidential candidate, he would be the first of the top-tier group of potential Republican presidential candidates to make the move. Herman Cain, a pro-life businessman, has already established a committee — but Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have not.
Also, a large group of lesser-known potential candidates ranging from Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour to John Huntsman, Mitch Daniels and Rick Santorum, have yet to open up an exploratory committee.
Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler told AP, “We have said for weeks now that Newt will decide whether or not to move to an explore phase by late February/early March. We are sticking to that schedule.”
Gingrich is pro-life and became something of a national hero and Republican figure when he orchestrated the GOP’s first control of Congress in decades as a result of the 1994 mid-term elections. Since then, he has turned his national fame and stature into a one-man policy think tank, American Solutions, and has put forward policy proposals on a range of issues and widely traveled the speaking circuit.
However, Gingrich’s personal issues (he was divorced twice and engaged in an extra-martial affair) have given some conservative and Christian voters pause. He also upset conservative Republicans with some endorsements of liberal Republican candidates.
Yet, conservative political columnist Matt Lewis says Gingrich shouldn’t be dismissed and could surprise some political observers.
“With reports that former Speaker Newt Gingrich is set to soon announce an exploratory committee for a presidential run, a lot of folks are already dismissing his chances — some even saying that Obama should be so lucky as to have Gingrich win the nomination (though they don’t expect he could even win a primary),” he writes in a new column today. “But underestimating Gingrich’s chances — especially in light of a likely weak GOP primary field — would be a mistake for several reasons.”
“First, Gingrich has ideas — and at the end of the day, politics is still about ideas. What is more, unlike some leaders, Newt can also communicate his ideas,” Lewis writes. “In a one-on-one format, my money’s on Gingrich to at least hold his own — and, at best, to dominate his opponent.”
“And Gingrich has something else that is vital: energy,” he continues. “Energy is vital on a grueling campaign trail where hitting dozens of breakfast spots in places like Manchester, N.H., can be tedious. Some candidates (like Bill Clinton) actually seemed to gain energy from the throngs, while most are just flat worn out by them. One gets the sense that Gingrich is more like the former (though the real test will be whether he has the patience to suffer fools with a smile).”
“But aside from all that, Gingrich also has a proven track record of success that no other Republican can come close to matching,” Lewis concludes. “There is no doubt Gingrich has plenty of baggage (both personal and political) that would come up in a campaign. But my argument is that ideas, energy, and a proven track record of success can cover a multitude of sins.”