Newt Gingrich: Why is he running for the GOP presidential nomination?
Is Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign just a way for him to pass the time? That’s the take of Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. "He's on a lark," Scala is quoted as saying in a Wednesday story by Seema Mehta. "It just seems to be a hobby more than a campaign at this point."
While other GOP candidates, including Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney, have hit the campaign trail hard in Iowa, the former House speaker has gone the low-key route. Mehta writes:
Even the visit to Decorah, in the northeastern corner of the state close to the Minnesota border, was prompted by Callista Gingrich's plans to attend a reunion at her alma mater there, Luther College. While Newt greeted diners at a pancake breakfast at the town's brick firehouse, Callista rehearsed with fellow band alumni.
The motivation behind the Deborah stop recalls a June op-ed by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, which paints a picture of Gingrich as man undone by the women in his life.
This supposed leader of men is easily led, from his budget tango with the more astute Bill Clinton to his relationships with women.
The son of a teenage single mother who was passed off as his sister, Gingrich has always been guided by women. His first wife, Jackie, was his former high school geometry teacher. The family-values pol cheated on her and left her when she was fighting uterine cancer.
He then married his mistress, Marianne, and worked on books and politics with her until he cheated on her and left her when she was fighting multiple sclerosis. He then married his mistress, Callista, and now he produces agitprop with her.
His favorite phrase is “Callista and I,” his Web site is all about “Newt & Callista,” and he has happily spent a fortune adorning his adored one.
Funnily enough, none of his sexual transgressions — even when he was pushing Clinton’s impeachment while he himself was cheating with Callista, then a 20-something aide on the House Agriculture Committee — landed him in as much political trouble as being loyal to his wife.
He thought his devotion to Callista would bring him political redemption. Instead, it has brought him political reduction. His campaign now boils down to the two of them.
But why bother campaigning as a hobby when, as Dowd also pointed out in her column, Callista would be just as happy on an island in Greece? When columnist Doyle McManus weighed in on Gingrich in May, he wrote:
[Gingrich] believes in his ideas. He has a healthy ego -- perhaps an over-healthy one. And he may hear his biological clock ticking. Gingrich will be 68 in June; this may be his last chance to run for president.
He wouldn't be the first politician to reach a certain age and run for president whether his prospects look good or not. These candidates may not expect to win, but they'd hate to end their careers without having tried.
There's another possibility too. McManus again:
The role that suits him is that of intellectual provocateur and polemicist; Gingrich has always loved big ideas, and even now says he would rather talk about brain science than what he calls "the mundane details" of electoral politics. […] He calls himself "the candidate of ideas," and told a reporter in Iowa that his presidential effort was "something that happens once or twice in a century."
One could interpret Gingrich's campaign as a PR stunt to boost his profile, which could later lead to big-money book deals. It would be a win-win, if you think about it. He could get paid to express himself and Callista could continue to enjoy her bling.
Photo: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich walks in a parade on the Fourth of July in Clear Lake, Iowa. More recently he joined a parade in Decorah. Credit: Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press