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It's not time for Newt Gingrich to go

March 7, 2012 |  2:41 pm

Newt Gingrich in Atlanta on Super Tuesday
In the aftermath of Super Tuesday, many Republicans were pained to see that the day's 10 primaries and caucuses did nothing to unify the party. Mitt Romney widened his lead in delegates, but his rivals did well enough to keep their campaigns going -- possibly all the way to the national convention in August.

Libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) probably would have continued his campaign regardless of his showing Tuesday, even though he's never had much of a chance to win. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, are arguably preventing each other from unifying mainstream conservatives into a winning base of support. Under this view, Gingrich should bow out and let Santorum, who has won significantly more states and delegates, make an unencumbered run at Romney.

Personally, I'm hoping Gingrich sticks it out. Not because he's entertaining, although he is that. It's because Gingrich uniquely forces the other candidates to elevate their game. He is the self-described candidate of big ideas, and that's what a presidential campaign should be about. He's the antithesis of Romney, a Mr. Fix-It who talks often about his ability to turn around troubled enterprises but rarely about what a retooled federal government could accomplish.

Some of Gingrich's ideas are wacky, and it's not clear that he has the managerial acumen to realize even his more rational ambitions. But it's clear that he's thought a great deal about the federal programs that need to be overhauled and how to go about doing it. His experience working with the Clinton administration to reinvent welfare helps him considerably in that regard.

Admittedly, Paul is an ideas candidate too. Not only are some of his ideas bolder than Gingrich's, his view of government is more coherent and seemingly less impulsive. All the same, Gingrich is the guy who really sells the notion of having a governing vision. He makes wonkery interesting, even as his ego and acknowledged grandiosity make him seem like the wrong guy to trust with the keys to the White House.

George H.W. Bush famously dismissed the "vision thing" before running for president in 1988, so it's not a prerequisite for winning the Oval Office. On the other hand, the senior Bush's tenure will be forgotten long before his predecessor's.


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-- Jon Healey

Credit: Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images

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