Presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich gave a crucial speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition in Los Angeles on Sunday night. The speech comes on the heels of his astounding triumph in downsizing, in which he set a wonderful example for our bloated government by dramatically reducing the size of his campaign staff.
Gingrich looked to be in good spirits, and had a little fun with last week’s campaign implosion. He got a laugh by saying, “I know full well the rigors of campaigning for public office. In fact, I’ve had some recent reminders.” Strolling through a swarm of reporters after the event, he chided them to “cover the speech” instead of his staffing difficulties.
The Associated Press reports that when a reporter asked if he was still a “viable candidate,” Gingrich replied, “Go ask the voters.”
It’s actually a little more complicated than that, at this point in a presidential primary. Important political supporters and campaign contributors must be convinced the candidate is a sound investment, and they’re arguably more easily spooked than voters are. The L.A. speech was Gingrich’s attempt to get past last week’s troubles and convince one and all that he will fight for the nomination “no matter what it takes,” as he declared.
He’s also got to convince the press, which enjoys writing both comeback stories and disaster epics, and is trying to figure out which template they prefer for the Newt Gingrich story. Obviously, they’re leaning toward Independence Day at the moment, with all of the staffers safely evacuating Gingrich HQ before the alien death ray blows it to smithereens. The Associated Press didn’t even bother to get the name of his new book right in their report. (Attention highly-paid editors and fact checkers: it’s A Nation Like No Other, not A Country Like No Other.)
A good disaster movie always has some comic relief. Right before Gingrich addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition, pollster Frank Luntz slipped them some hot scuttlebutt that Gingrich would announce hiring him as the new campaign director during his speech. As the Politico reports, “Shortly afterward, Luntz said there was no truth to this, and admitted he had floated the idea himself for the sake of his own publicity.” I’m sure lots of campaigns will be eager to hire the newly famous Frank Luntz now!
Besides assuring his listeners that he was still determined to prevail in the presidential campaign, “with the help of every American who wants to change Washignton,” Gingrich laid out some tough foreign policy goals. “We must reverse the Obama administration’s dangerous policies of incoherence and accommodation and implement instead a foreign policy that is clear about the evil that we face,” he declared, emphasizing the importance of putting a stop to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and vowing to cut all funding to the United Nations if it moves to recognize a Palestinian state under Hamas control.
Gingrich was not prepared to accept the death of Osama bin Laden as the last word in the War on Terror. “While the United States and her allies have won important victories in the war on terrorism,” he said, “it is impossible to look at the totality of the world 10 years after 9/11 and conclude that we are on the winning path, or that the world is a safer place.”
He’ll be participating in the big Republican debate in New Hampshire tonight, where a strong showing would go a long way toward getting that “comeback” narrative started. He’ll be competing with a few other candidates who are relying heavily upon spectacular debate performance to power their campaigns, such as Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and new contender Michele Bachmann. All of them will be getting their first shot at presumptive front-runner Mitt Romney. It should be quite a show.