The episode is a little confounding. Who is this gregarious, upbeat candidate, and what has he done with Newt Gingrich? Whatever’s gotten into him, he is loose and appears to be enjoying himself as he campaigns across South Carolina. “We’re just letting Newt be Newt,” says Adam Waldeck, Gingrich’s South Carolina state director.
The truth is that Gingrich is now the comfortable frontrunner, the self-assured favorite of conservatives who are searching for their champion against Obama, the happy warrior in the fight to (I’m paraphrasing the man) fundamentally reform the federal government on a profound scale, the likes of which the country has never seen in its entire history.
At a townhall in Newberry, Gingrich is gleefully bullish. “If we win South Carolina, I predict I will be the nominee.” It’s not an unreasonable assumption; since 1980, every winner of the state’s Republican primary has gone on to capture the nomination. Two days later, though, in an interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper, Gingrich drops the pretense of uncertainty. “I’m going to be the nominee,” he tells Tapper. “It’s very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I’m going to be the nominee.”
Just letting Newt be Newt.
The all-too-familiar character from the 1990s has only peeked out in public a handful of times so far. But already, Newt Gingrich — flush with pride over new polls showing his left-for-dead candidacy now leading the pack — is letting his healthy ego roam free again, littering the campaign trail with grand pronouncements about his celebrity, his significance in political history and his ability to transform America.
Longtime Gingrich watchers see clear signs that “Good Newt” (disciplined, charming, expansive in personality and intellect) is engaging in an internal battle with “Bad Newt” (off-message, bombastic, self-wounding) as his political fortunes rise.
“Remember, this is the man of the combination of Churchill and de Gaulle to begin with,” conservative columnist George Will told radio host Laura Ingraham. “He’s the embodiment of a nation in deep peril. The stage has to be lit by the fires of crisis and grandeur to suit Newt Gingrich.”
“Gingrich [is] always a fine a line between charming and brilliant on one hand, and eccentric and borderline dangerous on the other,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “He’s been ‘Charming Newt’ for the last several weeks. But the last couple of days have been a reminder of his other side.”
Gingrich “only has two modes — attack and brag,” explained one veteran GOP strategist.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about Newton Leroy Gingich:
In 1998 he was Speaker of the House and led the impeachment of Bill Clinton. He didn’t do it because he was outraged at the Big Dawg’s immoral behavior (Newt was then having an affair with his current wife while still married to his second wife) and he knew that Bill Clinton would not be removed from office because the Democrats controlled the Senate. Newt led the impeachment drive because he believed (and convinced his fellow House Republicans) it would help them win the 1998 congressional election.
His scheme backfired:
Republicans lost five seats in the House in the 1998 elections—the worst midterm performance in 64 years for a party that didn’t hold the presidency. Polls showed that Gingrich and the Republican Party’s attempt to remove President Clinton from office was deeply unpopular among voters.
Gingrich resigned the day after the election. Bill Clinton was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.