Gingrich leaves his mark on modern GOP

AP-Richard Drew

Newt Gingrich, a GOP icon from nearly 30 years ago, is making his mark on the modern GOP as Republicans gear up for the 2022 midterm season confident about taking control of the House and aiming to flip the Senate.

The former Speaker who toppled the Democratic House majority in the 1994 midterms, establishing a GOP majority for the first time in four decades, spoke Wednesday to House Republicans at their annual policy retreat in Florida and was there again on Thursday.

Gingrich delivered an optimistic and upbeat message at the retreat, according to people in the room, praising GOP leaders and expressing support for their plan to lay out a policy agenda during the campaign season.

“It’s very important to lay out before the election what you’re going to try to do and then recognize that you want to organize your activities to actually keep your word and do it,” Gingrich, who is consulting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on a “Commitment to America” policy plan, told The Hill in an interview.

Gingrich has been a major presence in American political life through five decades, a period that includes a failed presidential bid in 2012 and an alliance with the last GOP president, Donald Trump.

McCarthy said in a press conference on Wednesday that Republican leaders limited the number of outside speakers at their retreat this year, but of those that he did want to have speak, Gingrich was “No. 1.”

“Newt can tell us kind of the challenges that he had. How did he do something that most people didn’t think was possible?” McCarthy said. “We only need five seats to win the majority. The idea isn’t to fight to win the majority. It’s a fight to change the country.”

A host of policy proposals echo Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America,” which represents his most lasting contribution to GOP politics. The contract was signed by more than 300 Republican incumbents and congressional candidates, and the GOP gained 54 House seats that year, ushering in the “Republican Revolution” and making Gingrich Speaker.

It is debated how much the contract helped Republicans in winning back the chamber. But Republicans now are largely looking at it as a blueprint on how to take action quickly in a majority, avoiding the kind of paralysis and division that kept them from repealing the Affordable Care Act after they won control of Washington in Trump’s first term.

Gingrich recommended that a plan be released around Labor Day. But that hasn’t stopped independent politicians and candidates from releasing their own Contract with America-inspired plans.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) in February crafted and introduced a 52-point “New Contract with America” resolution, which included points like abolishing the income tax and the Department of Education. He reached out to Gingrich about it, though the former Speaker did not help craft it.

Cawthorn ally Robby Starbuck, a conservative filmmaker running in Tennessee’s 5th District, in the Nashville area, also released a “New Contract with America” campaign plan in January, which he described as “more populist in tone” than the original. Starbuck said that he didn’t reach out to Gingrich before putting it out, but Gingrich soon approvingly shared it on his own social media accounts.

“I think a lot of people look at me as somebody who’s been around a long time and has some practical experience that’s useful,” Gingrich told The Hill.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) unveiled an 11-point plan to “Rescue America” in February. In a statement, Scott called Gingrich “a good friend and someone I talk to regularly to get input on issues and campaigns,” adding that Gingrich “has done more than almost anyone” to make the Republican Party ideas-based.

Not all Republicans like the idea of emulating Gingrich’s ideas-based strategy.

A portion of Scott’s plan that suggested making the roughly 50 percent of Americans who currently pay no taxes pay something prompted attacks from Democrats and a rebuke from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

McConnell’s indicated that Senate Republicans will not put out a policy plan ahead of the election. Scott notably released his plan through his campaign apparatus rather than the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which he chairs, and has said that it does not represent the views of all Republicans.

“Rick is right, and McConnell is just plain wrong,” Gingrich said. “I think the American people deserve to know in advance what you stand for.”

The Gingrich revolution didn’t have an entirely happy ending for the then-Speaker.

Gingrich’s original Contract with America faced attacks from Democrats, who accused Republicans of paying for tax breaks for the wealthy with cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

And the effort in 1998 to impeach former President Clinton boomeranged when, before the House effort that December, Republicans lost five House seats in a midterm election where they’d hoped to make gains.

Gingrich, who also faced a reprimand for ethics violations and was under pressure from GOP colleagues over the poor midterm showing, resigned as Speaker in January 1999.

Yet Republicans today are looking to speak with Gingrich and emulate his approach.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, invited Gingrich to speak to the conservative caucus in October.

“Speaker Gingrich was the first to master two-way communication with the Republican base, harness it to push the party in a more conservative direction and then win a massive majority,” Banks said in a statement. “He knows that Republicans need to appeal to working class voters, lean into culture war issues and show voters we are ready to fight.”

Gingrich said that he told House Republicans on Wednesday to approach a policy plan revival “as Americans, not as Republicans.”

“You want to offer legislation that is attractive to every moderate Democrat as well as to Republicans,” Gingrich said. After 1994, he said, an average of 63 Democrats voted in favor of elements of the Contract with America. “This is a base-broadening election, not a base-mobilization election.”

Tags Bill Clinton Contract with America Donald Trump House GOP Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Newt Gingrich Rick Scott

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video