Newt the Dark Horse

For all of the talk of a Palin, Huckabee, Jindal or Romney as the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, the one to watch at this point in time is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (Ga.).

With the possible exception of former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Gingrich stands alone in terms of putting forth ideas that address the biggest issues the nation faces. Far from playing it safe, he has been boldly forthright in his approach to problems and with his targeted criticism of President Obama.

It's not new territory for Gingrich. He took the GOP to majority status in 1994 against all odds by being bold, putting forth new ideas and paving the way for others to join him in moving forward, rather than being a "go it alone" type of leader. Part pragmatist, part ideologue, Newt Gingrich brought out the best and strongest aspects of our big-tent party that has been unmatched since the early and mid-’90s.

Newt is also his own best staffer. In stark contrast to Barack Obama, it would be hard to imagine the former Speaker relying on a teleprompter. It is far more likely that a moderator or host would need to curb the speaking time of the man with ideas and a penchant for detailed explanation made understandable to just about any audience. Just after Iowa's Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage, he spoke out against the decision and predicted a "major movement" to bring the judicial branch into check, which means he will likely be a leader in putting the judicial branch under a public microscope with the issue of gay marriage as a carrot.

But he is also smart enough not simply to charge forward on a crusade against gay marriage in a vacuum that might alienate moderates. He'd rather put the issue to use to facilitate a bigger agenda. He chastised Obama for his deer-in-the-headlights reaction to North Korea launching a test nuke, drawing a clear distinction between his position of strength versus Obama's seeming inability to act, as a way to start the process of letting the American people know what kind of president he would be.

This is unique in that he isn't waiting until after a bigger crisis occurs to outline who he is and how he would lead, but rather is setting the table now, while things are relatively calm, so as to show he is a principled visionary who understands how the world works, rather than a reactionary. To anyone paying attention, it's an important distinction.

Presidential elections are won or lost in the middle. Newt Gingrich is smart enough to know how to be effective to his base, as well as appeal to the middle on key issues, such as the environment and healthcare. He also just became a Catholic, which doesn't hurt with the religious part of the GOP base, yet is still mainstream enough for all stripes.

Whether Newt is one's 2012 pick or not isn't the point. But other potential candidates can learn from his strategy, understanding of history and politics, ability to read the tea leaves and bold moves that show a willingness to lead rather than appease out of fear to act (as may be the case with President Obama).

It would be a mistake to underestimate this man, who has already proven he can accomplish what virtually everyone said was impossible. I, for one, am keeping an eye on Newt.


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