The idea of Newt Gringrich as president has been intriguing since he came to prominence in the early 1990s as the intellectual leader of the Republicans in Congress. His combination of high intelligence, understanding and appreciation of history, ability to effectively connect conservative principles to every day voter concerns, and his willingness to fight for his beliefs was unmatched in the party back then.
As well all know, his path to power didn't end well. After leading the Republican Revolution back in '94 and winning governing majorities, relentless demonization by the mainstream media and his own tendency toward carelessness in his personal life and pridefulness in office, cast him in the role of a villain for many Americans. His national "favorability" rating to this day has not exceeded 35%, which his a huge impediment to overcome for a Presidential candidate.
But Gingrich is still ambitious enough to want to be President. He's made rumblings about running many times over the past decade. I remember getting excited about a potential Gingrich run in 2008, only to have the rug yanked out by him relatively early for what seemed to be superficial reasons (he didn't want to give up running his non-profit political advocacy organization). In retrospect, it appears it was more his acumen in correctly reading the building momentum against any Republican candidate in 2008 that led to his decision to pull out.
2012 will certainly be a different political environment. It looks like the electorate will be more receptive to the Gingrich/conservative message than at any time since 1994. However, there is a concern that it will still be bad timing for Gingrich personally. Beyond his favorability issues with the general public, there's the perception that his time has passed. If he won, he'd be 69-years-old at inauguration, making him the second oldest President in history (just a few months younger than Ronald Reagan at the beginning of his second term). The contrast between this candidate, and the hip, young, allegedly forward-looking Obama would be striking for the millions of voters who do not choose a President based on substantive assessments.
And yet! Hearing a Gingrich speech today reminds you of all of the reasons you thought he could be a great President in the first place. Check out the video below, a domestic security and foreign policy speech he made at AEI last week. Vintage Gingrich. And one that shows a contrast with the current President that could (should) be enough to win an election that is decided on substance. A serious, visionary thinker (and great stump speaker), whose values are squarely in the American tradition, and who you can trust to do the right thing. A change America may finally be ready to vote for.