Newt Gingrich, the 2012 GOP presidential candidate, shares a lot with Bill Clinton, his 1990s arch enemy. While he was House speaker, together they balanced the budget, reformed welfare, and almost crafted a deal to save Social Security. And now some are adding a fourth link: political revival, a la Clinton's status as the decade's "Comeback kid." Says Gingrich, "Well, I may be that, but I may be more like a comeback grandfather."
Either way, the big-thinking Republican, his supporters, and presidential political experts sense that Gingrich, left for dead by the political class weeks ago when his staff abruptly quit and stories surfaced about his big-dollar Tiffany's account, is on the way back. The reason for the emerging Newt 2.0? His effective performance in the last debate that inspired supporters to boost online donations after he assailed the deficit "super committee" while spelling out detailed solutions to fixing the economy.
"He moved out of the irrelevant category and now he has some standing," says a GOP analyst. "His strengths are his ideas and translating them at a debate. Given that there are lots more debates, he has a chance to win." [Check out editorial cartoons about the Tea Party.]
The Gingrich surge is seen in some polls. In Missouri and Louisiana, for example, he is fourth behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Rep. Michele Bachmann.
"The general response to the campaign has gone up significantly since [the Iowa debate]," says Gingrich. "There's been somewhat of an uptick in polling numbers, not gigantic yet, but starting us back on the road to building a unique case. What I'm trying to do is show leadership now, show how you could actually solve problems and do it in a way that is totally compatible with conservative values but is also common sense and in some ways bipartisan," adds the Georgian.
"A number of people say that I'm just different and that they are glad to see somebody who isn't just articulating slogans without trying to develop solutions and my hope is that will grow," says Gingrich.
He feels he can come back and take the GOP nomination because the economy is so bad that voters more than ever are looking for new ideas. [See political cartoons about the GOP.]
Some suggest that his effort is similar to Sen. John McCain who in 2008 staged a comeback after being written off. Gingrich rejects that model. "I'm actually closer to [Barry] Goldwater and [Ronald] Reagan," he says. "They were arousing new groups, new organizations, using new issues and doing it new ways and it took a while to build momentum."
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR.