Yesterday's L.A. Times had an interesting article with a funny headline: "Newt Gingrich, serious this time, mulls a bid for president." As the piece notes, Newt has "mulled" a bid multiple times before, always pulling away at the point where he'd actually have to start putting together a campaign. But is this year different?
Party professionals were impressed with the extent of his 2010 midterm election efforts. He traveled extensively to key states and donated to candidates through his political action committee. In the leadoff state of Iowa alone, he gave more than $100,000.
Gingrich appears to have strengthened his political operation, which gives him the potential to finance and organize a campaign, even as he expands a personal conglomerate of think tanks, grass-roots organizations and a film production company run by Callista Gingrich, a former congressional aide who became his third wife in 2000.
Those could the actions of a man committed to a presidential race. On the other hand, they could be the actions of someone who knows that in order to keep getting those invites from "Meet the Press," he has to step things up. At a time when Sarah Palin can set the world on fire with a Facebook post, Newt has to work a little harder to maintain his profile. Newt's no dummy, and he knows that former officeholders are only relevant as long as they are thought to have ambitions for higher office. Seen any articles lately entitled, "Denny Hastert Criticizes Health Care Reform," or "Jim Wright Touts Tax Plan"? Of course not.
The article also says that "Some Republican politicians call him easy to like, but hard to love." For most Americans, he's just hard to like, and that presents a real problem for a presidential campaign. But if he were to run and lose in the primary, he might be even less interesting than if he had never run. Either way, I think 2012 might be the last year the press tries to convince us that we should be interested in what Newt has to say.
-- Paul Waldman