THE MORNING LINE -- May 11, 2011 at 8:37 AM ET
How Will Gingrich's Political Past Determine His Future?
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is set to announce that he will run for president. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
He may have left public office in the '90s, but Newt Gingrich will announce Wednesday that he's running for president in a manner very befitting of 2011.
Gingrich is also scheduled to appear on the Fox News Channel program hosted by Sean Hannity at 9 p.m. EDT Wednesday to discuss his bid.
The former Georgia congressman's candidacy, much like the prospective GOP 2012 field, is full of question marks.
Gingrich is well-known among Republican voters, with Gallup recently putting his name recognition at 84 percent. But he also remains a polarizing figure nationally, a lingering result from his budget battle with President Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s that led to a shutdown of the federal government and his leading the charge toward impeachment a few years later.
There's also the issue of his three marriages (and two messy divorces) that are likely to make social conservatives hesitant to support him.
What's not in doubt is Gingrich's reputation as a Republican idea man. He was the architect of 1994's "Contract with America," which helped the GOP win a majority in the House of Representatives during the midterm elections that year.
As the Wall Street Journal's Neil King and Patrick O'Connor reported this week, Gingrich has spent his post-speaker years building an organization of conservative advocacy groups and business entitities to lay the foundation for just such a return to public life:
"His network has amassed more than 1.7 million voter and donor contacts and raised $32 million between 2009 and 2010--more than all his potential 2012 rivals combined.
"Far less clear is whether these efforts, and the extent of his organizational infrastructure, will be enough to put him out front, should Mr. Gingrich decide to seek the presidential nomination."
POLITICO's Jonathan Martin, meanwhile, looks at Gingrich's path to the GOP nomination, which differs from that of other top-tier candidates:
"Because the wealthy Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman have the capacity to spend their own millions on the campaign and remain on the airwaves even after sustaining early losses, advisers to the former House speaker don't believe it's possible to lock up the nomination by winning one or even two of the initial contests. So Gingrich isn't pinning his hopes on any single state, believing instead that, for those who can't fund their own campaigns, the drawn-out contest will require a prudent use of resources spread across the board."
And the New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg examines the role Gingrich's wife, Callista, is expected to play in his campaign, noting that the affair between the two, while she was a congressional staffer and he was speaker, ultimately led to the end of his second marriage and political downfall.
"Mr. Gingrich is presenting himself as a family man who has embraced Catholicism and found God, with his wife as a kind of character witness. Depending on one's point of view, she is a reminder of his complicated past, or his secret political weapon."
By getting in now, Gingrich will surely be given plenty of opportunities by the press to explain his past actions and make the case why Republican voters should look to a leader who has been out of office more than a decade to lead the party into the future.
For more on Gingrich and the rest of the GOP 2012 contenders, be sure to check out this nifty graphic on the NewsHour's politics page.
THE NEW YORK SPECIAL
The final two weeks of the special election campaign for an upstate New York House seat promises to be fun to watch.
This is the Buffalo-area seat vacated by former Rep. Chris Lee after his shirtless photo posted to Craigslist became public fodder for ridicule. It's a Republican leaning district where Sen. John McCain bested Barack Obama by six percentage points in 2008.
When a PPP poll, sponsored by Daily Kos and SEIU, popped earlier this week showing Democrat Kathy Hochul with a four-point edge over Republican Jane Corwin, the national political organizations watching this race with great interest decided to jump in with both feet.
American Crossroads, the Republican independent expenditure group, launched a $300,000 TV ad buy Wednesday and has reserved an additional $350,000 worth of advertising time. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee followed suit by reserving $250,000 worth of television advertising time. The Buffalo News has all the details.
Democrats are eager to portray this surprisingly competitive election as a direct result of House Republicans passing the Rep. Paul Ryan's budget with its Medicare overhaul. However, the American Crossroads ad gets at the heart of what's going on in this race. Without a wealthy, self-funding Tea Party candidate on the ballot draining votes away from the Republican, it would likely not be nearly as competitive as it currently appears. Therefore, American Crossroads isn't spending its initial money on taking down the Democrat, its target is Tea Party candidate Jack Davis.
"This race has become artificially competitive because liberal Democrat Jack Davis is now trying to pass himself off as a conservative while the other liberal Democrat, Katie Hochul, is benefiting from his trick," said American Crossroads communications director Jonathan Collegio. "This ad buy seeks to expose the Democrat trick for what it is."
Certainly the upside-down polling on the Ryan budget hasn't helped Corwin's candidacy, but it's not the driving force in the election.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, did some fund-raising in New York this week on behalf of Corwin's campaign and Hochul plans to welcome Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to the campaign trail in the coming days. Those are not likely to be the only two national political figures who help shine the spotlight on this House race.
The DCCC felt compelled to quickly answer the American Crossroads ad with its own air support, but pouring a ton of money into a district that will likely return to Republican hands in November anyway is a tough decision to make in a world of finite resources and with a mission to win back the House.
Of course, an unexpected victory in a special election gets outsized free media attention and could help Democrats set a national narrative in which they've turned the corner from their disastrous performance in November 2010 when they lost 63 House seats. This would, in turn, help with the critical fund-raising and candidate recruitment efforts on their side of the aisle.
But because of the structure of this particular race, it would be hard to glean larger national trends.
OBAMA HITS 60
It's been two years since President Obama felt what it is like to have 60 percent of Americans approving of the handling of his job, but that's precisely what he'll feel Wednesday when he looks at the latest Associated Press-Gfk poll.
It's a bit of an outlier of other recent polls post-Osama bin Laden killing in that it shows President Obama with a strengthened hand across the board, including the 52 percent of Americans who approve of his handling of the economy. Other polls in the last week have showed a jump in support for the president overall, but his numbers on the economy remained sluggish.
Despite not being quite in line with other polls, hitting the 60 percent mark will no doubt be a driver of good free media coverage for the president.
The other news in the poll that will bring cheers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the 53 percent of Americans who believe the President Obama deserves to be re-elected. That's the same percentage of the electorate with which he won the 2008 election.
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