Debate Club

A Newt Gingrich Nomination Would Be a Gift to Barack Obama


President Obama has a "historically weak" approval rating and weakened electoral coalition. He's contending with an economy limping rather than sprinting towards growth and an exceptionally dissatisfied American public. For an incumbent president running for his party's second term, Obama's re-election prospects are unusually uncertain; as such, the likelihood of his winning is a hotly debated topic.

Like a spot remover, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's nomination would make Obama's worries disappear. The contest would become a referendum on Gingrich's candidacy, not Obama's incumbency. Gingrich's problem is not his political experience or his policy substance, but instead his personal style and scandalous past.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

First, he doesn't engender support from fellow partisans. Republican insiders believe Gingrich is intellectually arrogant, "undisciplined," and essentially, "not stable enough emotionally to be the nominee—let alone, the president."

Second, his career since he left political office represents much of what Americans find repugnant about Washington, including "the revolving door" between influential public appointments and lucrative private sector positions.

Third, although his reputation for authoring "The Contract with America" and winning back the congressional majorities for the Republicans in the 1994 midterm elections provide him with some support among conservatives, it is precisely his role in the "Republican Revolution" that is likely to turn off moderates from voting for him for president once that era is recalled. Further, Gingrich's nomination may even excite Democrats to vote against him.

[See a slide show of Newt Gingrich's career]

Fourth, Gingrich has never won a statewide office. Despite having served as speaker of the House, he's never earned more than 200,000 votes in any election. To date, the only president to ascend directly from the U.S. House to the White House was James Garfield.

Fifth, his personal history contains more drama than a television soap opera. Aside from his two extramarital affairs, one with a congressional staffer more than 20 years his junior (she is now his wife) Gingrich was formally reprimanded by the House for his "unethical conduct." The Democratic advertisements virtually write themselves.

Leaving aside a significant economic rebound, Gingrich is Obama's best hope for securing his reelection in 2012.

Lara Brown

About Lara Brown Professor at Villanova University

Gingrich, Newt
2012 presidential election

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