Opinion: The secret lesson within Newt Gingrich’s botched campaign launch


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There’s an important, hidden lesson in Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign kickoff for all the other Republican White House wannabes:

Take your time.

There’s no rush.

It’s only May.

Why set yourself up as a target any sooner than necessary? President Obama would be delighted to have Republicans fighting among themselves ASAP, so he can look calmer, more presidential by comparison, while his opponents try to prove their conservative bona fides to that raucous crowd on the right side.

Obama announced early to get going on his billion-dollar campaign fund, which is $255 million more than he needed last time as a nobody. A billion dollars is a really impressive number -- unless you’re falling short, say, because of the economy or this time your less enthusiastic base is saying, ‘Yes, we won’t.’


Interestingly, only one month into his campaign Obama aides are already trying to walk back that billion-dollar boast and the first quarter’s report, due out in early July, that was supposed to blow away everyone else’s money haul.

The president will do two Boston fundraisers tonight after his ....

... commencement address to the Coast Guard Academy. And Joe ‘I Guarantee Democrats Will Keep Control of Congress’ Biden will do a bunch more soon. The media is in a desperate hurry to get out on their lucrative travel expense accounts on the easier-to-cover ongoing political horse races instead of these one-day, non-news, who’s-decided-not-to-run GOP stories. Haley Barbour. Mike Huckabee. Donald Trump. Who won’t run next -- Pat Sajak?

And who cares anyway? More than 310 million Americans won’t be announcing they won’t be running.

The Obama administration would love for the media to get out of Washington too.

Then they might stop writing these annoying economic/job/debt/poll stories that keep highlighting what hasn’t happened under this president’s promised bipartisanship, instead of the harmonious rainbow of prosperity that Obama foresees if only he has four more years.

But, hey, there are still 538 days before the 2012 presidential election. More than 455 until the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

And fully three months before that silly Ames Straw Poll that told us so presciently in 2007 that Mitt Romney would win the Iowa caucuses -- which, of course, he didn’t.

First, a little historical reminder: The only way that May, 18 months out, is late for a presidential campaign is by the Democrats’ 2007 standards, when Hillary Clinton’s juggernaut decided to tie up her Democratic nomination early and this Barack Obama character needed to introduce himself outside northern Illinois.


The Republicans had no heir apparent back then either, thanks to George W. Bush clinging to the old Wyoming guy for one term too many. At this time four years ago, pretty much only one thing was certain: John McCain’s quest for the GOP nomination was doomed, virtually dead in the water. And the real GOP comer was sure to be Fred Thompson.

In 1960, Massachusetts’ John Kennedy, the second and last sitting senator to win the presidency until Obama, announced his candidacy on Jan. 2 of that election year (see his announcement video below).

Kennedy won the job with a 10-month (311-day) campaign. Bill Clinton announced 13 months before the election, Bush 16 months before.

It took Obama 21 months last time and by Nov. 6, 2012, he’ll have consumed a 572-day campaign.

Gingrich launched early this month because he had a 1990s image to rehab; he still does, after bad-mouthing a fellow Republican’s budget plan on national TV Sunday.

And Ron Paul? Well, Ron Paul is Ron Paul. He’s not selling a realistic candidacy; he admits that. He’s peddling a libertarian/’tea party’ philosophy, which will be an important driver of the Republican primary debates in unpredictable ways.

At this point the hierarchical Republican Party usually has a double-digit frontrunner; they like things orderly. That’s why Newt’s kicking over some chairs in the Republican living room this week upset so many in his own party. He apologized Tuesday as he launched a 17-city tour of Iowa.

The upside to campaigning early is everyone’s watching. That’s the downside too; any gaffes really stick out.


So Romney quietly goes about his delegate-wooing, popping up here and there for a quick speech or an impressive $10.2-million money bomb day this week in Nevada. Jon Huntsman is touring New Hampshire this week. Tim Pawlenty is out there too. And Michele Bachmann, the crowd-pleaser who grew up in Iowa.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels says he’ll make up his mind ‘soon.’ Despite his Harley and preference for jeans, Daniels is shaping up as the party establishment’s guy; they like chief executive types; think Gov. Reagan, Vice President Bush, Gov. Bush.

Laura Bush reportedly called Cheri Daniels the other day to reassure her about a campaign’s impacts on candidate families.

And Daniels himself showed up unexpectedly in an Indianapolis bar last week to sip a beer and schmooze with exuberant college supporters, not the kind of extra evening activity politicians choose without a motive.

But what’s the rush for him? Or anyone else for that matter?

Off in the wings, no doubt closely watching the field all summer long, are current New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry is the nation’s longest-serving state chief executive, an Eagle Scout, military vet, gun-lover and personable campaigner.

Perry’s also a Southerner, from the GOP-friendly region gaining most of the reapportioned electoral votes.

In terms of taxes, spending, job creation, business attitude, experience and state’s rights, Perry’s just about as stark a contrast to the White House Democrat as can be imagined. Even their book titles: Obama’s ‘Dreams of My Father’ vs Perry’s ‘Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.’

Both Christie and Perry have said they’re not running this time. They’ve said that frequently.


A little too frequently.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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