Is Newt Going to Run?

Some of Gingrich's biggest supporters are just waiting in the wings. "I'd run through a wall for Newt," says Peter W. Smith, a conservative activist and major fundraiser for Gingrich during his time in Congress. "He's the best wordsmith in politics and he's equipped to handle any of the Democrats. A match-up with Hillary would be fascinating."

Smith claims there is a cadre of conservatives waiting to come forward if Gingrich decides to run. "A lot of people who have been tied to him will not make a move to Romney or McCain until they see what Newt's going to do -- and that includes me," he says.

And Gingrich commands immense loyalty from his former staffers and aides. "I think he'd be the best man to be president," says Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley, who was Gingrich's spokesman.

Do they think he's going to run? "He will be looking at what the front-running candidates are talking about and if they're not talking about health care, the economy and the war in Iraq in the right way, he will throw his hat in the ring," says Anne Woodbury, a public relations executive at Fleischman-Hilliard and former aide to Gingrich.

If there's a clear Republican front-runner by next fall, Gingrich will sit out this election and look ahead to 2012, say some of his close advisors.

Conservatives who endorsed his 1994 Republican agenda through the "Contract with America" are upset at the big-spending policies of the Bush administration and the corruption scandals of the Republican Congress. For them, Gingrich represents a return to those principles. "He gave us the Congress in 1994, but the people he passed it on to got off course and they were thrown out on November 7," says Smith.

In recent weeks, Gingrich has been more vocal in his criticism of Bush and congressional Republicans, saying that the four C's -- corruption, an absence of competence and candor, and the bad advice of consultants -- led to the mid-election defeat.

In an open memorandum to House Republicans this week, Gingrich called for "a conservative bipartisanship" based on policies favored by conservatives: making capital gains tax cuts permanent, controlling spending, and making English the language of government.

"He can speak to conservatives, he has solid credentials with them," says Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Iowa. "And he still has a little bit of an independent streak, so he can be seen as something other than an apologist for conservatives."

Of course, Gingrich has never shied away from a camera and he might keep stoking interest in his presidential ambitions just to raise his profile. "He likes the opportunity to talk, and being a prospective candidate gives him a forum he might not otherwise enjoy," says Squire. "I don't see that people see him as a serious candidate, it's hard to make a compelling case he could be elected."

That wouldn't be for a lack of trying. Over the last two years, Gingrich visited the crucial state of Iowa six times over 14 days (among Republican candidates, only Romney and New York governor George Pataki have spent more time in the state). And he's planning to visit almost every county in the state this year to conduct training on issues facing the country.

And that helps when it comes to impressing voters in the state. "The more you come visit, the better," says Kaufman. 'We're taking it all in and checking out the different candidates, whether it's Newt or John McCain or someone else."

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