Newt Gingrich’s resignation last week as a contributor to Fox News in order to set up a political exploratory committee for president establishes him early on as a serious contender for the GOP nomination. Insiders say he is genuinely interested in running, and is not doing it for the publicity. Gingrich has remained relevant in his post-Congressional years with numerous ventures including writing books, forming PACs, and becoming a frequent contributor to Fox News. He raised $20 million last year, more than any of his Republican rivals. However, he will need to overcome a perception that he betrayed the Republican Congressional freshman class of 1994, and convince conservatives that two messy divorces do not undermine his conservatism.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is leading in most GOP presidential primary opinion polls, with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney close behind. Both are the only candidates polls show who can defeat Obama. However, Huckabee does not perform as well in some of the smaller polls of party faithful and Tea Party activists, and has not definitively attained front-runner status. Gallup reports that in most presidential races dating back to 1952, there was a clear front-runner at this stage, who usually won the nomination. There have been few exceptions. In 2007, Rudy Giuliani was well ahead of John McCain, but McCain ended up winning the nomination. Early front-runners tend to attract more negative attention. A populist, Huckabee has gained traction over the past couple of years due to the constant exposure provided by his folksy Fox News TV show. The evangelical base loves the fact he is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. However, he will need to convince Republicans that he is conservative enough. He has supported tax increases, opposed tax decreases, granted clemency to numerous violent felons, and promoted tuition breaks for the children of illegal immigrants.