NEWT �08.

NEWT �08. Newt Gingrich has seen his opening. And you can�t blame him -- given that all three of the leading GOP �08 contenders have their problems with the base, there seems to be a gap somebody like him could fill.

How do we know he�s leaning toward throwing his visionary, forward-looking, world-transforming hat into the ring? this press release, from Focus on the Family:

Gingrich Tells Dobson He�s �Sought God�s Forgiveness�

Former House speaker admits moral failings, discusses threat of radical Islam

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich tells Dr. James C. Dobson he has �gotten on my knees and sought God�s forgiveness� for his personal moral failings in a two-part installment of Dobson�s international radio program airing Thursday and Friday.

Take heart, religious right! Your savior is saddling up his white horse! Lately, Newt has been quietly preparing to make himself the candidate of the religious right. He put out a quickie book called Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation�s History and Future and hosted a Fox News special on religion in America. He doesn�t just want to be a philosopher-king, he wants to be a philosopher-historian-futurist-theologian-king.

Newt has said he�s going to wait until the fall to make a decision about running for president, and if the race still looks open, he might get in. It seems as though he wants to be president, he just doesn�t particularly want to run for president, to paraphrase something John McCain used to say. But the scenario actually seems pretty reasonable: once voters in, say, South Carolina start getting flyers in their mailboxes with photos of Giuliani marching in gay pride parades (or in a dress), he tanks. Meanwhile, hardcore religious conservatives can�t bring themselves to trust so recent a convert as Mitt Romney. For his part, McCain gives up trying to woo them and, figuring that they�ll remain fractured, goes back to making himself the candidate of moderates and independents. If all that were to happen, it�d be Gingrich Time.

Of course, Newt has some of the same problems Giuliani does; in fact, he may be the only candidate with a personal history displaying more sadism toward his former wives than Rudy. We all know the stories -- served his first wife with divorce papers while she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery, had an affair with a young aide (now his third wife) while married to the second wife. But as we know, that stuff doesn�t matter much -- what�s more important is whether you can assure conservatives that you�re on the right team when it comes to the culture wars (see Limbaugh, Rush; Bennett, Bill; etc.). And nobody does hippie-bashing with more gusto than Newt.

So if you want to get a taste of what Newt is offering, at his web site, you can download �iNewts,� and listen to his wisdom while you�re on the stairmaster. That�s right, iNewts.

--Paul Waldman

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