Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Presidential Election 2012: Can Newt Gingrich Overcome His Negatives?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Presidential Election 2012: Can Newt Gingrich Overcome His Negatives?

Article excerpt

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to announce this week the formation of an exploratory committee for the 2012 presidential election, a first step toward a full-fledged campaign.

At last, a serious contender. Newt Gingrich looks set to become the first major candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

The former House speaker from Georgia will announce formation of an exploratory committee before the end of the week, according to spokesman Rick Tyler. That means Mr. Gingrich can engage in limited campaign-like activities, such as polling, without registering as a full-fledged candidate. But really, in most cases, the "explore" announcement is just a station on the way to a full-fledged presidential election campaign.

Mr. Gingrich brings big positives and big negatives to the table.

On the plus side: He is already well-known to Republicans as a true-blue conservative, coauthor of the Contract With America, and leader of the 1994 GOP revolution that swept Democrats out of House control for the first time in 40 years. He is a compelling speaker, bursting with energy and ideas. And he is a veritable fundraising machine: He has outraised all his potential competitors with a political committee, including former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Sarah Palin of Alaska, according to a Washington Post analysis published Feb. 16.

On the minus side: Gingrich has had a messy personal life, including an extramarital affair with the woman who is now his wife while he was married to his second wife. And that was all going on while he led the charge against President Clinton for his infidelity with intern Monica Lewinsky. Gingrich also faced ethics charges as speaker, most of which were dropped. But on one charge, related to the use of a tax-exempt college course for political purposes, he was reprimanded by the House and fined $300,000. After a sub-par performance by Republicans in the 1998 midterms, Gingrich was forced out of the speakership by a rebellion in his own GOP ranks. …

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