Matt Lewis

I’m in Atlanta Thursday – along with other conservative bloggers and writers such as Robert Bluey and Captain Ed Morrissey – to interview former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The American Solutions conference is the occasion, but it’s also excuse for pundits to question whether or not Gingrich will officially enter the presidential race (after all, he has told us he won’t announce his intentions until after the conference).

The answer to that question depends on whom you ask.

One DC insider reminds me that longtime Gingrich adviser Rich Galen is currently advising another presidential candidate. While purely an “inside baseball” argument, allowing a top-aide to work for another candidate, I’m told, is a tell-tale sign Newt has never really been serious about running.

Yet another source points to an interview Gingrich conducted earlier this year with Dr. James Dobson in which he discussed his past personal peccadilloes. This attempt to put his prurient past behind him, this source argues, is proof-positive a Gingrich candidacy has always been a fait accompli. (After all, why endure an auto de fe for no reason?)

Another cynical but commonly-held view is that Newt’s coquetry with running has always been a gimmick, designed to sell books, promote this conference, and ensure the former Speaker of the House continues to be invited as a regular guest on Fox News.

But running for president -- and garnering favorable public relations attention -- are not mutually exclusive – especially if one does not care to win (and can thus avoid pandering to the masses).

Candidates ranging from Pat Buchanan to Jesse Jackson have run for office, lost, and still managed to advance their cause, celebrity, and pocketbooks at the same time.

Others care less about whether or not he will run, and tell me Gingrich simply should not run.

Gingrich’s many critics like to point out that he already had his chance to take on the Clintons – and that he lost the political battle.

But a maxim in politics is to hang a lantern on your problems, and thus, it could also be argued that Newt’s past experience with the Clintons has uniquely prepared him for the challenge.

Facing such animadversion early in ones career is often a good thing. Gingrich has endured his share of ad hominem attacks, and probably knows the Clintons better than any of the other candidates. There’s something to be said about betting on a fighter who knows how to take a punch.

The question of electability is another issue.

Matt Lewis

Matt Lewis is conservative writer and blogger based in Alexandria, VA.

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