Newt's Handicapping

by TNR Staff, TNR Staff | September 14, 2007

Granted, Newt has a vested interest in dumping on the current crop of GOP presidential candidates. But I think the critique of the Republican field that he gave to National Journal is pretty smart:
Q: Let's talk about the Republicans who are in the race, starting with former Governor Mitt Romney. Is he the kind of visionary you think the country needs? Gingrich: Look, I think there are three or four possible Republican nominees -- [Rudy] Giuliani, Romney, [Fred] Thompson, [Mike] Huckabee, and, based on his recent re-energizing, [John] McCain. All of them are smart people. None of them have yet broken out and begun to define a fundamentally different future. Q: You did say at one point that McCain was deeply at odds with the GOP base and that that would affect his chances. You seem to have changed your view somewhat. Gingrich: He has recognized that the Senate immigration bill that he supported was hopeless. McCain has moved much closer to the Republican base. The Republican base hasn't moved closer to McCain. And on issues of war and on issues of honor and military capability, John McCain has an extraordinary personal story. Q: Giuliani supports abortion rights and certainly some forms of gun control. Isn't he also deeply at odds with the base? Gingrich: I think part of the difference was that there are no Giuliani-Kennedy bills. There are no Giuliani-Feingold bills. Giuliani is a New York, moderate Republican. But he hasn't gone out of his way to pick fights with the Republican base. Q: Fred Thompson's rollout has generally not gotten rave reviews. What do you think of it and of him? Gingrich: I think that any Republican has to have a core, direct, compelling message of why they would be different than [President] Bush and why they would be different than Clinton. And they have to be able to say it in 30 seconds. And they have to be able to say it so that people in their living room believe it matters to them and their family. None of our candidates have yet found that rhythm. Q: What aren't the Republicans saying that they should be? Gingrich: We need very bold, dramatic change, change at every level -- from school board to city council to county commission to state legislatures to the presidency. That's what the Republican Party has to stand for. And, frankly, the Republican Party hasn't stood for that.
Given all this, Newt puts the Democrats' odds of taking back the White House at 80-20. P.S. I probably should note that Newt, while coming pretty close to shutting the door on an '08 bid, appears to be laying the groundwork for an 2012 run. As he tells NJ, "I'd be the same age in '12 [that] Reagan was when he was elected in 1980." Keep hope alive! --Jason Zengerle

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