The Washington Post

Newt Gingrich’s campaign kickoff: How bad is it?

Newt Gingrich has struggled mightily in the first seven days of his presidential campaign. REUTERS/Jason Reed

* Gingrich described Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal as “right wing social engineering” and then apologized to Ryan for doing so.

* Gingrich was verbally accosted by an Iowan over his comments about Ryan, a episode that was caught on tape and has been running on a loop on cable news.

* A Politico report detailed that Gingrich owed between $200,000 and $500,000 to Tiffany’s during 2005 and 2006.

* A gay rights activist dumped glitter on Gingrich during a book signing. Yes, that happened.

* Longtime Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler put out a vitriolic statement Wednesday about the treatment that his boss had received from the media that included the following quote: “They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip.”

It’s among the worst first seven days for a presidential campaign in recent memory. But, Gingrich is far from the only candidate to struggle getting his bid off the ground. Below is a look at a few of the most (least?) memorable kickoffs. Who/what did we miss? Offer your thoughts in the comments section.

* Joe Biden (2008): On the same day that the Delaware Senator announced his bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, a profile of him in the New York Observer hit the web. (The story was written by Jason Horowitz who is now a star political reporter for the Post.) In the piece, Biden had this to say about then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” Ooomph. A national controversy ensued and Biden spent the next several days cleaning up the rhetorical mess he had made for himself. In the process, he lost any momentum he had hoped to build from the announcement.

* Fred Thompson (2008): After months of speculation and excitement, the former Tennessee senator officially entered the 2008 Republican presidential race on September 5, 2007. But it had already become clear that Thompson might not live up to the advanced billing. From his decision to ride around the Iowa state fair in a golf cart to his ignorance about a high-profile fight over oil drilling in the Everglades it quickly became clear that Thompson had little interest in the mechanics of a campaign. The cherry on top? His plea for applause at an Iowa house party. Thompson dropped from the race after the South Carolina primary in 2008.

* Wes Clark (2004): The retired general was recruited into the 2004 Democratic presidential race as the antidote to the meteoric rise of former Vermont governor Howard Dean. Clark, like Dean, was opposed to the war in Iraq but, unlike Dean, was well regarded by the Democratic establishment. But, in his first day as a candidate, Clark told a group of national reporters that he “probably” would have supported the Congressional use of force resolution against Iraq. In a single sentence, he managed to undermine what — at the time — was regarded as a frontrunning campaign. Clark never recovered from that first slipup.

* Dick Lugar (1996): Unlike the other people on this list, the Indiana Republican Senator didn’t say or do anything wrong in his announcement for the 1996 GOP presidential nomination. He was just very, very unlucky. Lugar’s April 19, 1995 announcement happened to be the same day that the Murrah federal building was bombed in Oklahoma City. The Lugar news was drowned out — both that day and for months and months to come — by that act of domestic terrorism. Despite an impressive resume, Lugar never gained any traction and dropped from the race in March 1996.

* Pete Wilson (1996): Wilson, the Republican governor of California, formed an exploratory committee to run for president in March 1995. A month later he underwent minor throat surgery. But, his recovery from the surgery took far longer than he — and his supporters — expected. For two months, he had no voice at all. By the time he formally announced his campaign in August 1995 it was already way too late; Wilson dropped out of the race a month and a day after he officially entered it.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.