The Bomb Thrower

Newt Gingrich, former Republican troublemaker in congress, tries to establish his new message as trustworthy and experienced candidate for the US-elections in 2012. 

While Newt Gingrich’s pre-election campaign has faced some difficulties in the past months, the 68-year old has managed to attract attention of the social-conservative wing of the Republicans: the Tea Party. To this day he is one of the Republican candidates most likely to run for the American Presidency in 2012.

Most people know him as TIME’s “person of the year” in 1995; as former US representative from Georgia and recurring character on the political stage since 1974. Others, like the public broadcasting network NPR, critically describe him as “Angry Bird” or simply as “Newt”, a salamander-like “highly adaptive animal that regenerates limbs when wounded and emits poison when challenged”.

Newt Gingrich is, together with Mitt Romney, one of the most likely candidates to be elected as the Republican candidate to run. Which is quite surprising for most analysts, given the fact that Gingrich’s campaign has faced difficulties from the start.

After negative headlines in the summer of 2011, when his top campaign advisers resigned, the former congressman has been running into debt for his “extravagant campaign”, according to the Washington Post.

Now, just before Christmas, his biggest competitors Ron Paul and Mitt Romney attacked him in their campaign-advertisements. Their focus lies on approximately 1.6 million dollars of consulting fees Gingrich supposedly received from two contracts with the mortgage company Freddie Mac.

As a consequence Newt Gingrich has dropped even with Mitt Romney with 28 percent support among Republicans according to a nationwide poll in mid December 2011.

However, Gingrich’s biggest problem might be himself: “He has never been a conservative”, writes Jack Hunter in The American Conservative in May 2011. “He has rarely, if ever, in favor of smaller government. He simply believes Republicans can preside over big government more effectively.” Furthermore, Gingrich has generated millions of dollars in revenue over the past decade through his consulting practice and his for-profit think tank, which makes him less likeable for many Republicans. Also his reputation as “Bomb-Thrower” who doesn’t hesitate to fight in public not only with his enemies, but also with his own party members, still sticks.

Gingrich is a controversial Republican: A politician, who had resigned in autumn 1998 from Congress in a cloud of ethical problems and who is married to his third wife. This causes concern among republicans who see themselves as “morality-voters”, says Washington Post analyst Karen Tumulty.

However, Gingrich is without doubt one of the most experienced politicians in Washington who manages to connect his campaign to victories in the past. For example: The manifesto for his presidential campaign is called the “21st Century Contract with America”. A name which resembles the headline of a successful program he initiated 17 years ago. In the election year 1994 – the first Midterms for president Bill Clinton – Gingrich made sure that almost all Republicans in the House of Representatives signed the “Contracts for America, a national election manifesto. He created a rare unity

and coordination on a national level which led to the first Republican majority in the House since the 1950s and Newt Gingrich became its speaker.

In his current campaign manifesto Gingrich addresses mostly typical conservative topics: He promises to replace the “Obama-care”, to balance the budget, to strengthen national security and enforce border control.

What sets himself apart from his “moderate” competitor Mitt Romney is that he gets support from Tea Party members. According to NPR, they see in Newt Gingrich a “voice for their own frustrations with Washington. They remember Newt Gingrich very much as a force for change in the party”.

To emphasize this message, he didn’t react to the “dirty campaigning” of his competitors with aggression. Instead, he appeared on a nationwide TV channel last week, complaining that negative advertising is incompatible with the spirit of Christmas.To become elected as Republican candidate in 2012, Gingrich now focuses on “new, and improved Newt”: A 68-year-old grandfather who has settled down with his third wife, embraced God through Catholicism and has gained new perspectives on how to run a government by working in the private sector in the past years.

Has The Newt changed his color for good? Probably not: “Friendly Gingrich” argued in a letter to his supporters for a positive campaign – and fired a campaign employee who did not fit into this picture.

This assignment was written before 20th December 2011.