Former flame-out and current frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president, Newt Gingrich has had a storied career in politics. He got his start in the late 1970’s, running a brilliant but nasty campaign for Georgia’s sixth congressional district. He made a big play for the family-values voters. In one campaign ad he even went so far as to suggest that his female democratic opponent would leave her husband behind if she was elected while he’d be bringing his family with him to Washington.
His time in Washington was filled with incredible highs and very low lows. Within three terms of entering politics many were calling him the most disliked man in congress. Gingrich arrived on the House floor at about the same time as C-SPAN. He immediately saw the impact television could have on the political process. In fact, after becoming speaker in 1995 he was the first Speaker of the House to request and receive a prime-time slot to address the nation.
His media savvy served him well throughout most of his tenure as speaker but as the 90’s waned so did his popularity. After being brought up on ethics charges and forced to pay hundreds of thousands in penalties, the disastrous attempt to impeach Bill Clinton on charges that he lied to a grand jury, and a thorough trouncing for the Republican party in the 1998 elections, Gingrich’s own party turned on him and he decided not to seek reelection.
He didn’t stay out of the public eye for long though. He authored several books on history and turned himself into an in-demand political pundit. Now he’s seeking the republican presidential nomination, a bid that has also seen it’s ups and downs. Last June his senior staff quit en masse saying Gingrich was more interested in hawking books than being president. But today’s he’s seeing a major turn around. National polls have him miles ahead of any competitors, even supposed frontrunner Mitt Romney.
But does Newt really have a chance to win the nomination, let alone the general election? Are his years inside the beltway and help or a hindrance? Is he still deeply unpopular within some wings of the Republican Party? And, can he stay at the top of the heap, or is a tumble inevitable?
Daniel Stone, White House correspondent, Newsweek and The Daily Beast
Denis O’Hayer, political reporter, WABE (Public Radio in Atlanta)