My first election memory is from 1974, when I was 7 years old. President Nixon had recently resigned, succeeded by Gerald Ford. The Democratic Party picked up 49 seats in the House for a total of 291. In the Senate, the Democrats picked up four seats for 61 total. But for me, my memories are more personal. My father, Newt Gingrich, lost his first run for the 6th Congressional district in Georgia.
While victory was not to come that night, or the next election night two years later, it did four years later. In 1978, Dad won the election and went on to serve the 6th district of Georgia for 20 years.
Twenty years after his 1974 loss, he led the Republicans push to take control of the House of Representatives.
When thinking through who might be able to provide a historic perspective of the 2010 election, the retaking of the House of Representative by the Republican Party, the leader of the Contract With America tops the list for anyone, including for me, his daughter.
Following are my questions and the answers he e-mailed me the morning after the 2010 election.
Based on your experience in taking over the House in 1994 and becoming vilified by the press, what advice would you give the next speaker, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio?
"Boehner has four big advantages over our 1994 experience.
"1) He is a calmer, more managerial team leader and less of an out-front, combative, ideological spokesman than I was.
"2) Barack Obama is much more polarizing than Bill Clinton and likely to remain much noisier and more dominant in public activities.
"3) FOX News has created an alternative communications channel of enormous power, which dominates Boehner's base.
"4) The Democrats are now used to losing and will accept the authenticity of Boehner's majority. When we won in 1994, it was the first time in 40 years and the Democrats and the liberal media believed we were illegitimate and had somehow cheated to become a majority."
In retrospect, should you have handled in a different manner the government shutdown that occurred while you were serving as speaker?
"The government shutdown was a key to our survival. No Republican House had been re-elected in 68 years, since 1928. The shutdown convinced our voters we were serious and convinced Clinton he had to deal with us."
Should Boehner force a government shutdown if the Republicans cannot reach a budget agreement with President Barack Obama?
"No. Boehner should force showdowns not shutdowns. If Obama wants to force a shutdown, Boehner should not flinch -- but he shouldn't seek it."
What does it mean that Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., was re-elected and Jerry Brown won the California governor's race?
"California and New York remain bastions of liberalism despite the economic decay brought about by bad government and high taxes. Learning to win in those two states is one of the greatest challenges facing Republicans."
If you were an advisor to President Obama, what would you recommend he do in the next two years?
"He should focus on job creation and use the Eisenhower style of co-opting the opposition. He should appear reasonable and share the stage with Boehner and (Mitch) McConnell so they come to share the responsibility." (McConnell is the Republican Senate minority leader from Kentucky.)
Does this election result make it more or less likely that you will run in 2012?
"This election proves there is a potential to repudiate the left, but now we have to think through how to replace it with a center-right governing majority. The challenge of thinking through, explaining and implementing a replacement strategy as national policy is very intriguing."
What is the tipping point that would make your running in 2012 inevitable?
"Support so widespread and enthusiastic that we could not reject it and remain good citizens."
A few words and phrases in his answers struck me as particularly interesting and illuminating.
His note that "Boehner today" is a more managerial leader than Speaker Gingrich was 16 years ago.
Reinforcement that there was no alternative to the government shutdown during his speakership, as it "convinced our voters we were serious and convinced Clinton he had to deal with us."
His comment that "the challenge of thinking through, explaining, and implementing a replacement strategy as national policy is very intriguing."
I can almost see the gleam in his eye.
As for running in 2012, we'll have to wait to see if the tipping point for his potential candidacy is reached.
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