Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gingrich to announce presidential plans Wednesday night

Washington  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he will 
announce his presidential intentions Wednesday night -- bringing an end to speculation over his likely White House bid.
The Georgia Republican told reporters on Capitol Hill he will make his announcement at 9 p.m. via Facebook and Twitter, and during an appearance on Sean Hannity's show on Fox.
"I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run. Thank you for your support," Gingrich said Monday on his Facebook page.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, said Wednesday morning that "the discussion around the presidential race will obviously increase" when Gingrich enters the race for the GOP nomination.
March: Newt Gingrich for president?
2010: Gingrich takes jabs at president
2010: Gingrich: Obama is a 'con man'
2010: Gingrich: Need to restore values
"I think Gingrich has always been an ideas man, and I'm sure that will provide a lot of positive input to the debate," Cantor said.
The former speaker has traveled to key early voting states trying to build a network of support and meeting with fundraisers. He has assembled a campaign team and told supporters he aims to raise $100 million.
During his appearances, he has pushed a wide array of policy proposals in his bid to lay the foundation of a campaign and prove he is a serious candidate -- not just a symbol of the past.
"I expect the American people in the end will be remarkably fair. They'll render judgment and they'll decide whether or not Newt Gingrich is somebody that they think can solve the country's problems and be the kind of leader they want for this country," Gingrich told Fox News in March.
He has given his audiences a lot of political red meat and has not shied away from controversy. Speaking at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event in Iowa in March, he said there is a difference between a majority of Americans and "the secular socialist people around (President Barack) Obama and the degree to which they do not understand America, cannot possibly represent America and cannot lead us to success."
Recognized as probably one of the smartest Republican leaders, his agenda includes overturning the health care reform bill, eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency, pushing more development of energy sources and advocating tax cuts.
"He is a polarizing figure (who) comes with a fair degree of baggage," Ford O'Connell, who worked on the 2008 McCain-Palin ticket, told CNN. He said Gingrich has to make himself relevant to the current political climate. "He does represent the past but has to show why he represents the future," O'Connell said, adding that he thinks right now Gingrich is having difficulty doing that.
"If he can demonstrate why he is relevant to the future in the current political climate," O'Connell said, "the baggage will dissipate."
Some Republican activists not affiliated with a campaign have said Gingrich may not be disciplined enough to focus his ideas in order to run a successful campaign.
Pollster David Winston, who worked with Gingrich during his years in the House, said he can.
"There isn't any question Newt Gingrich is a person with lots of ideas," Winston told CNN. "The step for Newt here is to not just merely focus on the future ... (but to) focus on the problems the country is most worried about."
The former House speaker, who converted to Catholicism, the religion of his current wife, has especially reached out to the social conservative wing of the party -- critical to success in the key states of Iowa and South Carolina.
"Some people may tell you we should stay away from values and stay away from social issues. I am here to tell you if you don't start with values and you don't start by describing who we are as Americans, the rest of it doesn't matter. Life is not just about money," he told the Conservative Principles Conference in Iowa.
Many of those activists are skeptical of him because of his two divorces.
"There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate," Gingrich explained to the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody.
After the Georgia Republican lost two runs for Congress in the 1970s, his third attempt in 1978 was successful. He was aggressive and rose to the second spot in the House Republican leadership. He was instrumental in helping to craft the 1994 Contract with America -- a blueprint that helped the Republicans take control of the House. He was elected speaker but decided to retire in 1999.
He then went about rehabilitating his political career, forming a conservative policy think tank called American Solutions, starting a string of successful businesses and becoming a political commentator. He has an impressive record of fundraising, he has developed a large network of supporters and he has authored almost two dozen books and produced movies on a wide range of topics.
Gingrich still has some work to do on his reputation. Forty-four percent of those surveyed in a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll said they had an unfavorable opinion of him, while 30% said they had a favorable one. That gives him one of the largest unfavorable rankings of the GOP presidential contenders, although it also shows he has high name recognition.
When Republicans are asked who they favor for the nomination, 10% choose Gingrich, tying him with Rep. Ron Paul but behind Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee.
"He brings a lot to the debate. But there are a lot of candidates in the process of going through a presidential primary. We'll sort out the good from the bad, and we'll end up with a good candidate," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told NBC's "Today" show Tuesday regarding a Gingrich candidacy.
It has not been all smooth sailing as he tested the waters. He admitted his advisers flubbed the initial announcement in March that he was exploring a run and starting a website, when expectations were built up that they would announce a more formal step.
"It led to unfortunate confusion," he told the Des Moines Register. "I wish we had been a little more structured... but I don't take it as a serious problem."
Gingrich also drew some criticism for not giving a coherent critique of the Obama administration's policy on Libya. He told Fox News on March 7, when asked what he would do, that he would "exercise a no-fly zone this evening." Later he told NBC's "Today Show" that "I would not have intervened. I think there are a lot of other ways to affect (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi."
For his part, Gingrich has denied he flip-flopped, saying he was just commenting on the circumstances as they changed and posting on his Facebook page, "President Obama said publicly that 'it's time for Gadhafi to go.' Prior to this statement there were options to be indirect and subtle to achieve this result without United States military forces."
"The president, however, took those options off the table with his public statement," he continued. "That's why during a March 7th Greta van Susteren interview, I asserted that the president should establish a no-fly zone 'this evening.'"

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