We don't have to imagine what it'd be like for Newt Gingrich to be the on the Republican presidential ticket -- he already was once, if unofficially and against his will. In 1996, President Bill Clinton's reelection campaign worked hard to tie Bob Dole to Gingrich, as Dole complained for more than ten years after he lost. As the San Francisco Chronicle's Debra J. Saunders notes, Dole told Charlie Rose in 2005, "Every TV ad had the worst picture of Newt and the worst [photo] of me and said 'Dole-Gingrich.' And I thought that was my name for a long time. Every ad, you want these two guys to run the country? And Newt was not very popular. I mean, it was like an anchor around my neck." But that was the 1990s, and Gingrich, a lover of history, surely has studied the mistakes he's made. Because, as he emerges as the latest GOP presidential obsession, he's clearly studied the mistakes of the other Not Romneys who've flamed out before him.
What Newt Learned from Michele Bachmann
- Don't be anti-science: Gingrich knows he can't say he agrees with the majority of scientists who say global warming is real and win the Republican nomination. But he's smart enough not to flat-out say it isn't real, telling Bill O'Reilly Monday night that he's "open-minded" on climate change. Better to say you have some doubts about an idea that has a whole lot of evidence than throw yourself behind an idea that's been proven false, like when Bachmann said vaccines could cause mental retardation.
- Don't forget about the church crowd: Just because we've spent the last few years talking about the Tea Party and it's lack of interest in social issues doesn't mean the culture war went away. Gingrich has been working hard to win over evangelicals; CNN's Shawna Shepherd reports that Gingrich's first stop on his three-day trip through South Carolina was a town hall in a church with several local pastors where he talked about how God influenced his ideas. That event was closed to the media, but Gingrich hasn't hidden his appeals to evangelicals. In an October debate, he said religion mattered in evaluating a candidate, because "how can you have judgment if you don’t have faith and how can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?"