Newt No More: What McCain/Feingold Did To A Gingrich Bid

"I had to make a choice. American Solutions is in the early stages of being a genuine citizens movement. To walk out on it just as it was getting launched was irresponsible. It’s far more important than exploring prospects for the presidency." Newt Gingrich, September 29, 2007

What a difference 48 hours makes in politics. On Thursday, at 10:15 am, while appearing on my program on WDUN AM 550 in Gainesville, Georgia, Newt Gingrich gave the answer to the “presidential question” he would give for the rest of that day and Friday and had been giving through out this year. As soon as his world wide event, American Solutions, was over on September 29th he would have Randy Evans, on his behalf, see if there were $30 million dollars in pledges for a presidential campaign. He said that on October 21 he would give a final answer. As late as Thursday evening on The Sean Hannity Show and later on Hannity and Colmes on Fox News Channel, he said that there was a 20% chance he would run.

When I talked to him on my program and later at the conference, he repeated many of the same things. He was looking for “Red, White and Blue” solutions, he was a “middle-class” guy who couldn’t write a $100 million dollar personal check like Gov. Mitt Romney, and that the way to beat Sen. Hillary Clinton was to have ideas not attacks. He sounded like a man who was running and he looked like a man on top of his game.

The ink was hardly dry on the press release to announce his exploratory committee on a run for president, Gingrich had suspended his contract with Fox News Channel earlier in the week and had fielded and answered a number of questions regarding living in Virginia while basing a campaign out of Atlanta. He looked like a candidate. In fact, a number of news organizations ran commentary with titles like, “Newt will Run.” What a difference a few hours make. Gingrich pulled the plug on his own presidential aspirations.

It appears that Newt Gingrich is the first casualty of McCain/Feingold and the squashing of free speech through campaign finance reform. Gingrich said, "McCain-Feingold has legal penalties. It penalizes being a citizen. We thoroughly understood the legalities of running for president. We didn’t realize the implications for American Solutions. We just said this is important. We can’t have all these workshops and kill it Monday morning."

Rick Tyler, Gingrich’s spokes person said in an email, “The risk during the exploratory phase would have been being accused of using American Solutions resources to travel, speak, communicate, etc. During this phase, American Solutions would have been open to the factual allegation that while Newt was actually speaking for Solutions, he was instead attempting to drum up support [or pledges]." McCain/Feingold would have made it impossible for Gingrich to continue raising money for American Solutions and explore a run for the Presidency and for a guy who has always had been many things at once, it wasn’t plausible that he could add a presidential run into the mix.

But Gingrich may fight another day. He has ruled out a vice-presidential bid, but hasn’t ruled out a run for president in 2012. I have a moment in time theory about all this. There is a reason that we haven’t had a President Howard Baker or President Sam Nunn — it’s not because they weren’t talked about or considered or qualified, it’s because they missed their moment in time. While there is some speculation about a Nunn independent run for 2008, it won’t be at the top of the ticket. Is this Gingrich’s moment in time or has it passed? That question can only be answered with time.

His commitment to American Solutions is steadfast and suits him. If he stays with American Solutions and works within the two party system to facilitate change and connections between parties, he may do what presidents and speakers can’t do—bring people together through education. Rush Limbaugh said that the greatest mistake of the Republican Revolution of 1994 is that we thought we had convinced people on conservatism. The current Democrat controlled congress is doing the same thing. They think their win of the House and Senate in 2006 was a vote for them, when actually it was a vote against Republicans who weren’t doing their jobs and were corrupt. Maybe American Solutions is the vehicle for Newt, the teacher, to finally convince the American people about conservatism. It is a way to take the Contract with America of 1994 to a new generation with new ways to spread the message.

Newt Gingrich is a survivor and he is a guy that can get more people together of differing political persuasions than anyone I have every met. He’ll be there for the pendulum to swing back to the right and he will have a say so in where it lands. The sad thing is beginning the weekend with the possibility of a run for president and ending it with the jolt of a definitive, “I am not running,” takes away from what he wanted to accomplish from the weekend. The news became about him and not about the message. However, there will be many more American Solutions weekends and America will be watching.