Recently, Newt Gingrich teased voters by announcing he might run for President of the United States. This is exciting news only if the voters in the GOP get the Nobel Peace Prize Disease (NPPD).
NPPD is a rare condition where decision makers pick not the best candidate, but the one who wants it the most. NPPD occurs most frequently in elections for high school class president where none of the popular kids run, but some Barney-Fife-look-alike wants it so badly. His attention to the issues and his massive expenditure in poster board were enough alone. You cannot win the presidency that way. Ask Al Gore.
It is possible that no living American, other than Bill Clinton, wants to be President in 2012 as much as Newt, but it is also the case that since Grover Cleveland no “most improved” candidate has ever won. Richard Nixon proves that you can win a second-chance by becoming Badder than you were (compare 1960 Let-Kennedy-Have-It-Nixon to 1972 Steal-Stuff-If-We-Need-To-Nixon), but to his credit Newt isn’t half as scary as Nixon.
Nixon’s jowls quivered with pent up fury, Newt’s with cheerful Southern living.
If GOP voters want to nominate the Baddest Guy on the Block, Dick Cheney already has won.
It is easy to generate a list of reasons that Newt will never be President, though his nickname (“Newt”) might be the biggest problem. Being named after a lizard-like creature might get you the vote of the Gussie Fink-Nottle crowd, but there just aren’t enough newt fanciers to make up for losing every other demographic. We tend to elect men with nicknames like “Old Hickory” or “Hope-Change” not Newt. Look it up.
His second biggest problem occurred to me after I did an extensive demographic survey of three Republican women in my house. The Fairest Flower in all Christendom flees the room whenever he appears on the screen. She mutters about Newt and I am afraid to ask what she is saying. My Dear Mother has never been seen in a room when Newt is on television and my daughter refuses to remove her ear buds to listen to a word he says. (Of course, the daughter is a big Romney fan so perhaps this is an unfair sample.)
In any case, Newt has a track record unlikely to endear him to the swath of voters known as women. I have been told there a good number of them. Can you imagine the You-Tubes?
Newt is sometimes praised as an “intellectual” and a smart guy. This is true in the sense that Newt is an idea-a-minute kind of guy who likes books. It is not so true if one is looking for a consistent political metaphysic that can explain what he is thinking at any moment.
He would be a great hire to run a think-tank. He would be fun in meetings . . . assuming he was running them, but as leader of the Free World? Endless meetings and the production of binders does not a commander in chief make. Newts should work for Reagans not our Reagans for our Newts. GOP voters will not forget that Newt was good at getting to be Speaker, but not very good at running things or staying Speaker.
President Obama is already demonstrating the perils of putting an idea-a-minute guy in charge and he is a steady Gibraltar of deliberation next to Newt.
Finally Newt is not a gifted communicator unless the race for the White House changes the debate format to the Graduate Seminar Face Off. Against Obama, Newt would be McCain without a record of heroic service and “my friends.”
Fans of Newt might respond that he would run less to win than to “get his ideas into the mix.” Since so far as I can tell Newt’s ideas, such as they are, are not actually that new, I don’t understand the argument. Even where his ideas are new, and not merely those of an intellectual dilettante, I don’t see how running and wasting millions of dollars doing so to get three percent of the vote will help those ideas. Associating good thoughts with the odor of failure and personal ambition is a bad way to sell them.
Of course there is always the Keyes principle that one can make a good living by running for office. Perhaps all that fund raising is just too much for Newt to pass up. I hope that it is not it or that Newt himself has not been infected by NPPD. He should remember that wanting it is not enough.