Newt Wants You!

By Boyer, Peter J. | Newsweek, December 19, 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Newt Wants You!

Boyer, Peter J., Newsweek

Byline: Peter J. Boyer

'If You're Now The Frontrunner, You've Gotta Expect That Everybody's Gonna Come At You From A Hundred Different Angles. When They Get Done, Are You Still Standing?'

Just a few months ago, among those who believed that Newt Gingrich's presidential quest was doomed was the campaign's own best political thinker, Gingrich himself. After a botched start and mass desertion by his top staff, Gingrich spent the summer struggling for money, organization, and, worse, for a man like him, relevance. "It was really hard," he says now. "I got fairly tired of doing radio shows with people who would say, 'Well, so since you're dead --'"

By the end of summer, his campaign deeply in the red, Gingrich decided to quit--but was talked out of it by his wife, Callista. Entering the debate season, Gingrich focused on his advantages, and he began to see his near implosion as a gift. Among other things, the departure of the political professionals left Gingrich to become his own strategist. "Just as Clinton was," Gingrich says.

For Gingrich, a Bill Clinton reference is a natural reflex. Each was the other man's necessary foil in the great political dramas of the 1990s, when both made history because of their extraordinary gifts, as well as their outsize flaws. Clinton became the first two-term Democratic president since FDR and only the second president to be impeached. Gingrich became the first Republican speaker of the House since the Eisenhower era and the only speaker ever sanctioned by the House. They were the principal partisans at a moment when Washington's political differences hardened into the bitter divide that defines the political culture today. Yet Gingrich and Clinton had far more similarities than distinctions: both are possessed of voracious intellectual appetites, rare political instinct, media mastery, and a good measure of sheer chutzpah.

And resilience. Clinton weathered impeachment and a special prosecutor's sexpose before serving out his term and commencing a lucrative postpresidency in which he has betrayed no sign of lasting mortification. Gingrich, returning to elective politics, seemingly unbidden, after an absence of a dozen years, found himself polling in the single digits as recently as last month. Now he is the clear frontrunner in national polls, and he enjoys a commanding lead in Iowa as voters plan to repair to their caucuses.

The remarkable Gingrich surge has dismayed much of Washington, including many on his own side, who seem to be openly hoping for another Gingrich collapse. Gingrich shrugs it off. "If you get to this point, and you're now arguably the frontrunner, you've gotta expect that everybody and his brother's gonna come at you from a hundred different angles," he says. "And the question is, when they get done, are you still standing? So you relax, and you live through it."

The sudden frontrunner status has Gingrich scrambling to gear up his campaign apparatus. Gearing down had been easier. After a stormy morning meeting on June 9, the entire squad of hired political hands was gone from the national team. Gingrich says he felt no sense of betrayal, likening it instead to a corporate merger that didn't take. "We were trying to merge the tactical, political capabilities of people who don't know anything"--that would be the political pros--"with a system that is probably the most complex DNA in politics," he says. "And it was just hopeless." The defections left Gingrich with a loyal remnant, mostly staffers from his other enterprises, such as his policy organization, American Solutions.

Chief among them is policy adviser Vince Haley, a deep thinker from the Catholic right who "reads papal encyclicals as a hobby," Gingrich says. His new campaign director, Michael Krull (whose previous experience in presidential campaigning was a stint as a field staffer for George H.W. Bush in 1988), met with Gingrich and Callista, and the three of them agreed to a frugality regime.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Newt Wants You!


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?