I Dream of Newt

Somehow, rumors of a Newt Gingrich candidacy continue to circulate. I bet Democratic operatives go to bed every night saying a brief prayer that the Lord will, in His infinite wisdom, cause the GOP faithful to continue being discontented with the current crop of baby killers, Mormons, and McCain-who-they-don’t-like-for-unclear-reasons and turn to the Newt in their hour of despair. Jonathan Singer remarks that Gingrich “is remarkably unpopular for someone who has been out of office for nearly a decade.”

It’s worth driving this home. In August 2000 when Dick Gephardt was the Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives, 54 percent of voters told a CNN/Time poll they weren’t familiar with him. By contrast, in CNN’s November 2006 poll — when Gingrich had held no political office for about eight years — only 13 percent had never heard of him, and an additional 16 percent said they were unsure of how they felt about him. A larger number, 28 percent, took a favorable view of him. And a staggering 44 percent had an unfavorable view. An April 2007 CBS poll gave Gingrich a 16/43 favorable/unfavorable split. In March 2007 he got 29/48. A December 2006 NBC poll that took the unusual step of offering a “neutral” option produced a more favorable 26/35 split with 23 percent professing neutrality.

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As the best you can do, that’s a terrible place to be starting a presidential campaign. And, of course, in 1996 the Democrats ran a very successful campaign whose main negative attack was that Bob Dole resembled Newt Gingrich in his political views, a case that’s very easy to make when the candidate in question is, in fact, Newt Gingrich.