Current Status: Rising
Everybody knows why Mike Huckabee loves Iowa, but if any candidate on this list is infatuated with the First-In-The-Nation state, it’s Newt Gingrich. For almost a decade, Newt has been coming to Iowa to lend a hand and rally Republicans. He doesn’t visit the Iowa State Fair for a photo op; he spends the entire day there networking.
Over the past year or so Gingrich has ramped up his presence in Iowa. He’s headlined events for the Polk County GOP, held book signings, spoke at conservative lectures, and campaigned for Republican candidates across the state. One would be hard pressed to find a candidate that’s done more to reach out and talk to Iowans over the past year or so than Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich is about to see if his investment in Iowa will pay off, but that’s not to say he’s about to pull the trigger on a presidential campaign. Gingrich doesn’t have the same type of lavish support of Iowa Republican insiders like Pawlenty already has in place, but he doesn’t really need anyone to show him around the state. In many ways, Iowa is like his second home, and its not like Gingrich needs a bunch of advisors around him to formulate a campaign plan. He has a firm handle on what it will take to win a state like Iowa. Paying a lot of money for Iowa advisors would simply be wasteful.
Anyone who underestimates Gingrich does so at his or her own peril. Gingrich seems to be built for the type of campaigning that the caucuses require. His knowledge of issues and the endless policy proposals that he has developed over years make him better prepared to do the one-on-one campaigning in Iowa than any of his likely opponents. These traits will also benefit him in the numerous presidential debates that will take place between now and the caucuses.
Gingrich also possesses the gravitas that many other candidates lack. His star power was on display during his last trip to Iowa. He was speaking to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association’s annual summit. The room was packed for Gingrich’s speech, and he didn’t disappoint the 500 or so people in the room.
Gingrich put on a clinic that day. I initially wanted to compare his speech to Santorum’s speech, who spoke at the summit later that day. The problem was the two speeches were incomparable. While Gingrich spoke to a full house, Santorum spoke to an almost empty room. In terms of their speeches, it would have been like comparing a major league baseball all-star to a high school baseball player.
I understand that ethanol is an issue for which Gingrich has been a promoter for almost 20 years, but his speech that day, and the question and answer segment that followed, proved just how skilled of a politician he really is. I also realize that, while Gingrich appealed to the renewable fuels crowd more than Santorum did, Santorum will have the edge with social conservative voters, and those people all vote in the caucuses.
While Gingrich seems to be built for the Iowa caucuses, he does have some major obstacles that he will have to overcome. It is no secret that Gingrich probably has the most personal baggage of any candidate on this list. He has been married numerous times. Sometimes he partners with liberal Democrats on issues like healthcare reform and global warming, and he’s also admitted that he would have voted for TARP and has defended Romney’s healthcare plan. Why he felt to the need to endorse either of those two proposals is beyond me.
All of those things will haunt Gingrich, but the one thing that will probably help him deal with those issues the most is his appreciation and knowledge of our country’s history and its founders. Gingrich told TheIowaRepublican.com that he likes to be referred to as a storyteller. He, more than any other candidate in the race, will be able to talk about our nation’s religious heritage and the painful sacrifices that it took to secure our independence. The fascinating thing is that, in doing so, he could help people overlook his own flaws.
Newt Gingrich is as formidable of a caucus candidate as Iowans have ever seen. The combination of being a storyteller, historian, political operative, and excellent speaker make him the clear frontrunner in Iowa.
Photo by Dave Davidson
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