Newt Gingrich, a Republican stalwart and former Speaker of the House, announced his candidacy for President of the United States in the upcoming election on May 9, 2011. While he still has name recognition among middle-aged voters and is a veteran Washington insider, the fact that he has not held elected office since 1999 and would be [not-exactly-svelte] 68 years old before inauguration is likely to drag him down quickly. Ethics complaints lodged against him during his days in office, even if unsubstantiated, will also weigh on him like a mobster-driven Cadillac sinking into a march.
Not since Richard Nixon’s 1968 candidacy has a Presidential candidate been out of political office for a substantial period of time, never mind a full dozen years! The last Presidential nominee of a major political party to have a former before his title was Walter Mondale in 1984, who had not held office since the Carter/Mondale ticket was defeated by Reagan in 1980. The last successful candidate to have spent time out of office before running for Prez was Ronald Reagan in 1980, who had left the governorship of California in January 1975. Before 1980, Richard Nixon had been out of elected office for eight years when he won the White House in 1968.
Both Reagan and Nixon had been much more politically active than Newt Gingrich has been. Both Reagan and Nixon had run for office in major elections (Reagan for President in ’76 and Nixon for California governor in ’62) and kept their names in the media. Gingrich, in comparison, has not run for office since leaving Congress in ’99. Though he has kept himself active and politically engaged through writing, commentating, and affiliations with politics-based nonprofits, these are unlikely to even the playing field between him and Presidential candidates with more recent terms in office. In a game where time on the field is important, Newt has been on the sidelines for twelve years.
Being a sideliner for twelve years will not factor up well against an incumbent President, even one who faces immense criticism over a weak economy and questionable foreign policy decisions in North Africa and the Middle East.
Republican Mitt Romney, in comparison to Newt, has only been out of office (governorship of Massachussetts) for a little over four years and ran actively in 2008, giving him much more “time on the field” against the older and more ethically-questionable former Speaker of the House. Romney is a more active and Presidential-looking politician than Newt Gingrich, which, with today’s television-based campaign coverage, easily explains his Republican front-runner status.
Finally, as a young person, I just see Newt as too old and tired. He does not look the part of President, nor have I heard him say anything I want to hear. Romney, a former executive, seems to have more econ and finance chops than Gingrich, a former legislator. Executives get things done — legislators, not always. Romney’s younger, faster, more active and politically up-to-date, and looks like a President.
Just going by the stats, Newt’s a definite long-shot due to his 12-year absence from elected office. Compared to the contemporary Republican front-runner, his lengthy political absence is exacerbated by his un-Presidential appearance and his lack of experience as an executive.
This disenfranchised twentysomething advises Newt to stick with writing books. Donating money to a Newt Gingrich candidacy is a poor investment. In a bad economy, please spend that money on something wiser.