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Newt Next Time?

By Robert D. Novak
Saturday, November 8, 2008

In serious conversations among Republicans since their election debacle Tuesday, what name is mentioned most often as the Moses, or the Reagan, who could lead them out of the wilderness, and before 40 years pass?

To the consternation of many Republicans, it is none other than that of Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House.

Gingrich is far from a unanimous or even a consensus choice to be the party's presidential nominee in 2012, but there is a strong feeling in Republican ranks that he is the only leader who has shown the skill and energy to mount a quick comeback for their party.

Even one of his strongest supporters for president in 2012 admits Gingrich would be a "very risky choice." But Republicans are in a desperate mood after the fiasco of John McCain's candidacy.

Republicans seem chastened by the failure of McCain's attempt to win moderate, independent and even Democratic votes. They are ready to try going back to the "old-time religion."

One Republican critic of Gingrich concedes that he has an "unlimited" energy flow and a constant stream of ideas, an important commodity in a party that appears to have run short of them during the Bush years. But there is widespread concern about what is described in the party as his deep "character flaws" that would be difficult to overcome in a presidential campaign.

Nobody in Republican ranks, however, can match Gingrich's dynamism.

The consternation among Republicans is concentrated on McCain's failure to capitalize on Democratic vulnerabilities.

Gingrich would face a rocky road to the nomination, much less to the presidency, but there are no other serious candidates inside the party at the moment.

It is clear that Republicans are unanimous in trying to avoid a repeat of what happened this year, and there is a surprising consensus that McCain was the wrong candidate and went in the wrong direction.

What one GOP critic calls Gingrich's "unlimited energy supply" would have to be overcome by anyone opposing him. Several old Republican hands feel that the idea of Gingrich in 2012 is no more outrageous than the idea of Ronald Reagan was in 1980.

What is certain is that Gingrich has the desire and the will. He has deep-seated ambition. He had not even settled into the House speaker's chair in 1995 when he confessed to me his presidential desires for 1996. That was not to be, but he never abandoned the dream, and he is ready to pursue it now.

© 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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