Opinion: The Newt watch: The beat goes on


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Norman Hsu may not be available anymore, but others who have the clout, connections and cunning to hustle up -- i.e. ‘bundle,’ in the political vernacular -- big amounts of political dough may want to give Newt Gingrich a call. But you need to act quickly.

Gingrich has said before that if he could get his hands on $30 million or so, he just might, just maybe, perhaps possibly decide to enter the already hard-to-figure Republican presidential race. Today, at a breakfast with reporters in Washington that included The Times’ Janet Hook, he revealed that he’ll set loose his top political advisor to see if the cash is out there.

The aide, Randy Evans, will spend October on the task. And if pledges from backers hit the $30-million mark by Nov. 1, Gingrich said, ‘I would seriously consider running.’ Indeed, he added, it would be hard to say no to such a show of support.


Gingrich has been taking the art of flirting with a White House race to a whole new level, as we have noted here and here. The new carrot he dangled came on the same morning that the Washington Post’s David Broder, who has been tracking Gingrich’s political career for more than 30 years, expressed regret in a column that the onetime House speaker ‘has virtually decided to pass on the 2008 presidential race.’

Chances are, Broder remains on the money. Gingrich’s comments today may set hearts aflutter among his most ardent allies, but think about it -- how realistic is it that he can line up $30 million in commitments in a month? It strains credibility that there’s that much spare change available for a candidate who, even if he stormed on to the GOP nomination, would be anything but a sure bet in the general election.

Still, it’s undeniably fun to have Gingrich toying with a campaign. For instance ...

he said that if he decided to take the leap, he would probably begin with a nationally televised address.

In a clear shot at Fred Thompson, Gingrich added, ‘Announcing on Leno is goofy.’ This isn’t a new view for Gingrich. Way back in May, in a chat with reporters at the funeral for the Rev. Jerry Falwell, he said: ‘If I do decide to announce, it will not be on Leno or Letterman or Comedy Central. The whole point of running would be to have dignity. To have seriousness.’

He also said today, as he has in the past, that as a candidate he would not participate in group debates. ‘I’m not going to stand in a line of penguins. ... It trivializes the process. This is not a game show.’ He would, however, be willing to debate any candidate of either party -- one on one, for 90 minutes.

Turning to the Democratic contest, he continues to see Hillary Clinton as a virtual lock for her party’s nomination. He rated her chances ‘in the high 90s.’

Looking beyond the daily give-and-take on the campaign trail and the overall battle for advantage, he offered a simple explanation for the struggles Barack Obama has had in trying to gain traction against Clinton: She’s married to the most popular Democrat in America.


He also termed Bill Clinton as nothing less than the ‘smartest politician of his generation’ (a generation that, of course, includes Gingrich).

Warming to the subject of the dynamic Clinton duo, he said they had the ‘biggest network and work it every day.’ Plus, ‘they like doing it.’

-- Don Frederick