Let me first do what some in this business fail to do: Reveal a potential conflict of interest and remind readers that I served as Newt Gingrich's political chairman before and while he was speaker of the House. I've known him 30 years. But those who follow this column, including Gingrich, have not always enjoyed my views on some of his words or actions.
Newt knows I am an independent thinker, and while I'm not on his level of political genius, I might be a bit more in touch with the daily grind that faces most Americans every day.
So what's my take on this week's disclosure from Newt that he might run for president in 2012? First comes an initial, perhaps superficial reaction: Mitt Romney seems more charismatic, better organized and hungrier for the job than any other potential 2012 candidate. Sarah Palin is attractive, also charismatic and an ambitious potential candidate. Even Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is not well known, has a lot of "curb appeal" as a young candidate on the rise.
But I don't discount a Gingrich run. The presidential campaign of 2008 was about style over content. John McCain won GOP the nomination because Mike Huckabee, who shocked the Republicans by winning in Iowa, was viewed as perhaps too socially conservative. Romney seemed stiffer and "slicker" that year. He was too closely aligned with the unpopular George W. Bush camp. The GOP voters went for the image of "the maverick" in John McCain. It didn't work.
As for the Democrats and ultimately the nation, the elegant, charming and oratorically gifted Barack Obama represented a "change" as much in style as in substance. Oh, yes, there ultimately was plenty of substance in the change Obama brought to the nation as president. It just has not been the kind of change that many independent voters who supported him were expecting.
I have seen Newt Gingrich reinvent -- or perhaps better to say, "evolve" -- many times in his career. First, he was the bright new Republican conservative thinker in an overwhelmingly majority Democratic House in the late 1970s and the 1980s. By the early 1990s, he was the bomb-throwing, take-no-prisoners fighter who helped oust Speaker Jim Wright from power. By the mid-1990s, he was still a "revolutionary," but one with a detailed plan of action and a band of Republican "brothers and sisters" in the House willing to follow his lead to a huge 1994 electoral takeover of that chamber.