I sound pretty sure of that, don’t I? Do I know something the other pundits don’t? Do I have some nugget of inside information that’s tipped me off to a secret Gingrich ruse?
Sort of. The secret is this — Newt Gingrich is Newt Gingrich.
Infamous as an ethics violating Speaker of the House, notorious for the way he conducts himself in marriage and hypocritical in trying to bring down Bill Clinton for marital indiscretions even as he was in the middle of his own affair with the woman who is now his third wife.
Not to mention that I don’t think Newt realizes even today that it’s bad form to dump your first wife while she’s in the hospital recuperating from cancer. So where does Newt get the chutzpah to say, I know I’ve behaved badly, but I should still be the leader of the free world? According to the New York Times, he owes it to the woman who is wife number three:
“Gingrich is presenting himself as a family man who has embraced Catholicism and found God, with his wife as a kind of character witness. Depending on one’s point of view, she is a reminder of his complicated past, or his secret political weapon.”
Clearly, Gingrich is a man who doesn’t worry about inconsistent visuals because the 1990s political bad boy is now all about religion and redemption, at least when it’s his own. While we’re a country that loves a good comeback story where the fallen hero triumphs in the end, not all protagonists are created equal. Sure, we loved us some Bill Clinton trying to keep his family together after the truth about Monica Lewinsky finally came out. We Democrats are a forgiving bunch. But when you’re a candidate trying to sell yourself to the extreme religious right, a history that’s as peppered as Gingrich’s with affairs and unaccounted for blocks of time while traveling with your wife isn’t the stuff that successful presidential campaigns are made of.
Bad personal behavior may not disqualify someone from a presidential run, but a candidate who woos the far right can’t expect to be supported when there’s a big question mark when it comes to integrity. If he can’t count on the religious right, and he knows he’s not getting any Democratic support, the political math says don’t bother packing for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
At 68, Gingrich is more about rebranding himself for history. A Gingrich for all seasons, perhaps. He’s a man who can’t stand irrelevance and so much of what we know about Newt happened in a decade that’s now passe. Think Titanic and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Think grunge music and Super Mario. The last time Newt held elective office the pop culture phenomenon was Seinfeld.
Clearly, he hopes that the interest of his 1.3 million Twitter followers will help restore his cultural importance, but those who Tweet aren’t always those who vote. And while Barack Obama proved the necessity of social media and online outreach when it comes to national campaigns, everyone — including Obama — is going to have to step it up a notch when it comes to engaging social media users for 2012. Some random tweets here and there just aren’t going to cut it. And that’s the sad thing about Gingrich’s announcement of his presidential campaign — he’s stuck in irrelevance even when he thinks he’s finally figured out how to be the cool kid. The whole announcing a candidacy on Facebook or Twitter is so 2007 and he’s got no clue how to catch up to 2011, even with a wife who’s part of a generation that should understand all that.
So I’ll be sleeping easy tonight because I know we don’t have to worry about Newt in 2012. Now Michele Bachmann? She’s the one who keeps me up at night.