Newt Gingrich exited the presidential race with a too-long press conference, well after he had ceased to be a factor in the outcome. It is at times like this that pundits become marshmallows and declare, “But he can be proud that he made a contribution!” But did he?
His contributions were largely negative given that his policy ideas were gimmicks ($2.50 per gallon gas) or shopworn (a flat tax) or irresponsible (end aid to Pakistan) or spoofable (moon colony) or unhelpful (denying Palestinian nationalism) or too convoluted (his immigration plan run by local boards). Those who’ve been saying for some time that Gingrich has a million ideas, a few of which were good, were hard pressed to find the few good ones.
He did, however, show the limits of media bashing. (You can win South Carolina, but not much more.) He showed that anti-business capitalism doesn’t play in the Republican Party.
His main “positive” contribution was to wake Mitt Romney and his team from their slumber and convince them they needed a more focused message and provide a sparing partner for the debates. If Romney wasn’t ready to fight back on Bain or his tax returns he is now, in part because of Gingrich.
If not effusive, Gingrich offered that Romney was better than “the most radical leftist president in American history.”
Romney in turn issued a nicer-than-what-Rick-Santorum-got release, which read: “Newt Gingrich has brought creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life. During the course of this campaign, Newt demonstrated both eloquence and fearlessness in advancing conservative ideas. Although he long ago created an enduring place for himself in American history, I am confident that he will continue to make important contributions to our party and to the life of the nation. Ann and I are proud to call Newt and Callista friends and we look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead as we fight to restore America’s promise.”
Will anyone vote for Romney because of Gingrich’s help? Well he’s awfully good at reminding conservatives why they dislike the president. He’s being more or less a team player now, and for that Romney should be grateful.