It's ironic that when former aides or colleagues of prominent Democrats opine on the presidential race, for example Donna Brazile, who appears both on ABC and CNN and ran Al Gore's 2000 campaign, they are never asked to do a mea culpa about potential bias or conflicts. They just comment away on Democrats, Republicans, issues or whatever they like.
That's fine, because for once I'm not going to try to explain my objectivity when it comes to a man I spent many years working with and have known since 1979. I've praised him and occasionally pushed him around a little in past columns. He doesn't like that pushing around bit too much, but he's tough, and I have a job to do.
If John McCain and the GOP want to thank someone for helping turn around what seemed a dead-in-the-water campaign in a matter of weeks, they can thank former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich chose not to enter the 2008 presidential race, but his decision to use his "think tank" American Solutions organization to push for a "Drill Here, Drill Now" petition back in the spring is likely the source of John McCain's miraculous rebound in the polls.
It was the former speaker who zeroed in on this popular message while Republican House and Senate members and McCain seemed to be drifting all over the place in an attempt to find a "sweet spot" with the American electorate. During the summer, Gingrich met several times with the Republican House Conference and encouraged them to dig in their heels by demanding that the Democratic leadership return to Washington and address the issue of providing states the right to determine if and where exploration for oil and natural gas can take place.
Certainly John McCain deserves credit for pushing the issue, and governors like Florida's Charlie Crist helped McCain along by saying they support such a move. But make no mistake about it, it was Gingrich who was pushing this issue even before gas prices had hit the roof and the issue of energy became the top issue among voters.
House Republicans have openly given the former speaker the credit for energizing them at a time when all hope seemed lost. Now they have forced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reconsider her opposition to consideration of legislation that might, at the very least, begin the move toward expanded domestic drilling.