Episodically, I just addressed a 450-person Lincoln Day dinner of the Lane County Republican Party in Eugene, Ore. A show of hands brought these results: Giuliani, 50 percent; Gingrich, 30 percent; McCain, 6 percent; Romney, 4 percent. A few days before, a speech to an Orlando investors group produced similar results.
But, as the slogan of the New York State Lottery goes: “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Newt’s current posture of waiting until the fall of 2007 to see how the process sorts itself out won’t work. The process abhors a vacuum. If Gingrich doesn’t move out to respond to the affection of the GOP base, one of the minor-leaguers — Huckabee, Brownback, Gilmore, Thompson, Hunter or Tancredo — will.
The irony of the GOP field at the moment is that while most Republicans are conservatives, the two frontrunners — Rudy and McCain — are moderates. And this isn’t Nelson Rockefeller’s Republican Party anymore! Gingrich is filling a real political need and if he moves out smartly and files his paperwork, takes his announcement bows, and journeys to Iowa and New Hampshire as a candidate, he might well be a contender.