2:03pm

Mon May 9, 2011
It's All Politics

Gingrich, No Unifier Even Inside GOP, Decides To Run

It looks like Newt Gingrich has decided to ignore the advice of conservative columnist John Podhoretz that he shouldn't run for the White House.

Podhoretz made his recommendation in a post titled "Memo to Newt Gingrich: Seriously, Don't Even Bother Running," after that interview in which Gingrich now famously suggested that his patriotism led to his well-known past infidelities. (h/t The Daily Caller.)

But if anything should be clear by now after the decades that Gingrich has been in the public eye, it's that the former House speaker marches to the sound of his own drummer. And the drummer apparently is beating a cadence that is leading Gingrich to enter contest for the Republican presidential nomination that's up for grabs.

Gingrich will enter the race with a level of name recognition other candidates would love to have.

Of course, not all of that voter identification is positive. The aforementioned infidelities are well known and should make it harder for Gingrich to persuade his party's social conservatives that they should choose him to be their candidate.

But Gingrich has been polling relatively respectably. A recent CNN/Opinion Research poll of Republican and GOP-leaning voters had him at 10 percent versus Micke Huckabee, Donald Trump and Mitt Romney at 16 percent, 14 percent and 13 percent, in that order.

When the names of Trump and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) (she came in at 5 percent) were dropped, Gingrich was the choice of 12 percent.

Glib and well-read, like the history professor he once was, and with an ego noteworthy even for a politician, Gingrich's presence promises to rev up the intensity level of every Republican debate he's a part of.

But, again, Gingrich comes with much baggage. While he gets credit as the architect of the Republican Revolution that helped sweep his party into power in the House in 1994, his actions and statements as a private citizen have left some upset conservatives in their wake.

As The Daily Caller put it:

So far, he's angered the conservative intelligentsia with an ostentatious defense of ethanol subsidies, botched the announcement of his exploratory committee, bombed on explanations for his repeated adultery and three marriages, been seen as flip-flopping three times on Libya within a month and awkwardly warned about a future atheist America dominated by Islamic radicals.

"Lots of candidates make mistakes and gaffes," said Dr. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, "But Gingrich is offering himself as the tested senior statesman. He doesn't get any mulligans, as he is discovering."

Gingrich also upset many conservatives like Michelle Malkin when he supported a moderate Republican candidate in a 2009 special election in upstate New York over a more conservative Republican.

Given all that, Gingrich is certainly no unifying figure even inside the Republican Party.

But in a field as volatile as the GOP presidential possibilities for 2012, on in which a New York developer and reality show star could rise and fall in the span of a few weeks solely on the birther issue, what does Gingrich have to lose by jumping in at this point? Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.