By A.B. Stoddard - 12/14/11 11:11 PM EST
Should former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) win the Republican nomination for president, the fiery revolutionary seeking to “fundamentally” transform almost everything will have upended the political system anew. Unlike Gingrich’s successful revolution of 1994, his battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party in 2012 might not lead to the White House. But his nomination would overhaul the Grand Old Party, altering it in unexpected and unprecedented ways, and Gingrich would make history once again.
1. Republicans will no longer belong to the party of order: The long-held tradition of nominating next-in-lines will be broken. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, running for six years, will have been turned out for the unlikeliest candidate — a former congressional leader already rejected and retired by the party with no experience running a presidential campaign. Conservatives, who prize caution, will gamble on a political lightning rod.
3. Republicans have turned a critical corner on immigration policy: Gingrich’s immigration proposal, to provide longtime, law-abiding illegals with a path to legalization but not citizenship, was expected to sink him. Yet the same Republican voters who scorned Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his willingness to aid illegals seeking a college education in Texas have largely sat quiet over Gingrich’s plan to provide what many hardliners would define as amnesty. If Gingrich becomes the leader of the GOP, the tide will turn on its immigration policy, which could be a huge political problem for Democrats.
4. The revolving door can keep swinging: According to Esquire magazine, in the first half of 2010, before he entered the race, Gingrich’s American Solutions raised more than double the money raised by the Service Employees International Union, making it “the biggest political-advocacy group in America.” His Center for Health Transformation is a for-profit outfit charging fees from healthcare giants, including the largest insurers, of up to $200,000 per year to connect to Gingrich. His $30,000 per month retainer with Freddie Mac proves that highly paid “strategic” advice fattens the wallets of former politicians, whether they call themselves lobbyists or not.
5. Evangelicals will embrace an adulterer: Gingrich polls well with evangelical voters — adultery, divorces and all. Should he win Iowa, and the nomination too, it will be because he won enough of these voters to secure the largest coalition. These voters hate the sin but love the sinner and have moved off of social issues to focus on the economy. And they love Gingrich’s steadfast defense of Israel and tough talk on Iran.
6. Flip-flops are fine for credentialed conservatives: Be it a mandate for healthcare, ethanol subsidies, man’s role in climate change, Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) Medicare reform plan or the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Gingrich has changed his mind on conservative bedrocks. But he is the architect of a conservative victory that brought Republicans back to power after 40 years. Romney is a former governor of Massachusetts.
Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.