Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the latest Man With the Plan in the 2012 GOP contest. Today, he submitted his "21st Century Contract with America" to join former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's 59-point jobs plan and former Godfather's Pizza magnate Herman Cain's 999 economic plan as the latest attempt to differentiate a candidate as the one with the idea to best take the nation into the future.
The electorate is "so concerned about the long-term direction of this economy, they want someone who they think can fix it," says Republican pollster David Winston, who worked for Gingrich when he was speaker. He says the candidates are asking themselves, "What's that compelling idea that says to the electorate: You should be president?" he explains. "I think that's what [Gingrich] would like to be able to present; I think that's what all the Republican candidates would ultimately like to present."
The plan is 26 pages detailing how Gingrich would repeal and replace the healthcare overhaul law he calls Obamacare, cut taxes and reform the Federal Reserve, tap into America's natural energy resources, reform entitlements, loosen regulations, give more power to the states, and more.
Gingrich's original 1994 Contract with America helped earn the Republicans a majority in Congress, but will the new plan from the candidate with a "smartest man in the room" reputation make the difference?
Winston says, "We'll see."
Republican strategist Luis Alvarado of Los Angeles-based Latino Political Consulting doesn't think it will. "I am quite certain that it is a very well-thought-out, good plan," he says, "but I don't think it's going to be enough to bring him back to contention."
Alvarado says Gingrich tends to come across as too academic. "We already have one president who is academic, that is Barack Obama," he says. "The last thing we want is another academic in the White House, and that's the way the party sees him. He's too intellectual, too academic."
The plan is already getting support from Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, who came out in support of Gingrich earlier this week. Phillips likes the plan's framework, but his favorite part is a line at the end that suggests Gingrich plans to ask state and local leaders for advice in hashing out the details. "That's kind of a novel idea from one of our leaders or somebody who wants to be a leader actually listening to us," he says. "As opposed to most of the time just sitting around, letting us talk, and then going off and doing whatever else they want to do."
Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond is confident in the plan, and believes his candidate is "offering big leadership with big solutions that are on a scale that no other campaign or candidate dares to match," he says. Hammond describes the plan not as an end in itself, but as "the beginning of a year-long conversation about what the next president [meaning Gingrich] will do to lead the country," he says, adding that Gingrich would "probably be the first president in history known as 'President Newt' instead of 'President Last Name.'"