It would seem a worthy ambition for the former Georgia Republican congressman who also a few years back wanted to be Speaker of the House, which he accomplished by leading a Republican revolution that overturned 40 years of Democratic Party dominance in Congress. There is only one hitch. He managed to blow that assignment in about the same fashion as his Democratic predecessor and was forced out. It seemed that the historian hadn't paid close enough attention to history.
There seems little in Gingrich's career as a reigning conservative intellectual since leaving public office to support his ambition to lead a government he once shut down in a historic mistake that caused a great deal of heartburn to the nation and some severe damage to his party. While he is enormously engaging and literate, his image as a loser when - if you will forgive the cliche -the chips were down is a tough one to shake.
Yet because of his enormous visibility as a supporter of his party, raising millions of dollars for its candidates and appearing regularly on television as an often acerbic but charismatic spokesman for the Right, he is on the list of those most often mentioned as a serious candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. With the midterm election campaign now all but over, the race for that honor is about to begin in earnest.
The starting gun already may have sounded. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell seemed to be pulling the trigger by making it clear that the newly enhanced Republican position in Congress wouldn't be overly anxious to compromise with President Obama. In fact, the Kentucky lawmaker stated his party's top priority would be to prevent Obama from winning reelection in two years, not solving the country's problems.
Joining Gingrich on the current short list of possible candidates are at least four current or former state chief executives including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Romney would have to be considered as a top contender having lost out to John McCain in 2008. But certainly the most charismatic figure on the current political scene outside of Obama is Palin, who along with the president at once turns off more and excites more voters than any political figure in recent memory.
Her work to keep those in the so-called Tea Party movement generally inside the Republican Party is testimony to her enormous attractiveness on the stump where she has been an effective campaigner for Republicans. Crowds still throng to see her despite polls that indicate many voters would be unsure of her credibility as a presidential nominee and the fact that mainstream, old-line GOP leaders are wary of her while grudgingly agreeing she is a force with which to be reckoned.
Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is extremely popular in the South and has worked diligently for GOP congressional candidates. A former lobbyist who is also a prodigious fundraiser, he can be expected to be a force in the nominating process.
Daniels is a moderate mainstream candidate with solid conservative credentials that would be necessary to win the nomination. He has turned his state into a model of good government since leaving the White House where he was George Bush's budget chief. He may be the best qualified of all the potential candidates with a mix of top level state and federal experience and an understanding of financial needs at a time when the nation's fiscal solvency is likely to be a major issue.
While all this is in the earliest stage of speculation, with the ink hardly dry on the midterm ballots, the fact that the maneuvering already underway is about to pick up significantly is hard to dispute. Without any formal declaration, campaign committees are being formed and schedules for visits to New Hampshire and Iowa are being considered.
Take Newt Gingrich, for instance. Is there any doubt?
Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.