But here's the key to Newt Gingrich that I learned long ago: He can weather the tough times because his mind is always locked on a future that most people can't yet see. A case in point is his new book, "Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America." The man with the crystal ball has a new portfolio of insights, and the rumor mill in Washington has it that Gingrich's latest, book-boosted self-reinvention will align just so with the emerging political hopes and fears of Americans in the coming years.
Take health care. The former speaker and his Center for Health Transformation have become first sources for those seeking new ideas on the many health-related issues confronting the nation. The center's Web site features an assortment of legendary "Gingrich-isms" that only Newt could invent -- "Interoperable Health Information Technology Initiative," for example. (See www.healthtransformation.net.)
At first read, terms like these feel as futuristic as personal computers did a generation ago. Closer inspection proves that these fancy locutions point to elegantly simple ideas, such as a seamless health information system that would enable providers to care for individual patients with up-to-the-minute information and medical history. They demonstrate that while the political world at large has been slogging through cliches and generalities since Gingrich left office, Newt has been carefully constructing workable, potentially life-altering public policy concepts and initiatives.
Our prior InsiderAdvantage national surveys have shown that Americans -- particularly the ubiquitous baby-boomers -- list health care at the top of their lists for issues for which they want to see real change. By the presidential election of 2008, the issue will be parked in the middle of the political road. Will Newt be there with a tow truck?
If so, which Democrat might he face? Sen. Hillary Clinton is the name on many minds. Remember, it was the nation's reaction to her own strong ideas about national health-care policy that helped position Gingrich and his party mates for their legendary takeover in 1994.
It's a long way to 2008. Much can and will change. But many Republicans by then may be yearning for the apparently bygone days of fiscal restraint from their party. And voters of all stripes may in four years believe that being cerebral is not a liability in a political candidate, but instead a refreshing and necessary attribute.
The revival of Newt Gingrich isn't so far-fetched. As one who has witnessed virtually his entire career from a unique vantage point, I can say I'd never bet against him. Perhaps this time, the future that Gingrich speaks so eloquently about is a future with his name written all over it.