Then there were the years in the "wilderness," a term once used to describe Winston Churchill after his having led his nation through World War II, only to be later tossed out of power, at least for a while. Gingrich resigned after much internal GOP fighting. Yes, there is always the "he has baggage" argument. But years have passed, and Americans have short memories and forgiving hearts.
Now we see Newt Gingrich the "elder statesman." When Gingrich speaks, not only do cable news, talk radio and conservative popular news and opinion sites take note, so too does the "media establishment" that once ruled the airwaves and print journalism in America.
No, Gingrich will never match a Palin or Romney in a contest of style or youthful appearance. But in 2012, he will be the same age as Ronald Reagan was when he won the presidency for the first time. In that contest, the dashing John Connally and the elegant George H.W. Bush were viewed as the early frontrunners in the GOP race, along with other younger stars like Howard Baker.
Remember how Reagan moved from being viewed as an elder conservative also-ran to frontrunner status. It was one debate held in New Hampshire where the establishment GOP tried to keep Reagan from speaking. "I paid for this microphone," Reagan blasted as the moderator attempted to have him silenced.
And while I often discount the power of debates, it was the CNN/YouTube debate late in 2007 that catapulted Mike Huckabee toward a win in Iowa. And if you really want to reach back in time, I can name several presidential contests in which the debates turned the tide and the outcome of the election.
I can see Gingrich potentially playing roles like these. He is not an unappealing man. His grey hair and the calm manner in which he analyses issues gives those who view him a sense that there is still around at least this one bright, able -- and stable -- statesman. Do you really think any of the Republican contenders -- to say nothing of Barack Obama -- would want to debate Newt Gingrich?
A Gingrich run is more plausible than many think. Depending on an assortment of factors, it could just work for the Republican Party.