John Tabin notes two new polls taken last week by CNN and PPP have Newt Gingrich on top of the GOP field.
After Rick Perry’s debate gaffe last week, Matt Lewis of The Daily Caller contacted Reagan biographer Craig Shirley about Gingrich’s prospects of winning the Republican nomination. Shirley, who is currently at work on a book about Gingrich’s political activities in the two decades leading up to becoming Speaker of the House, replied, “We are witnessing one of the greatest — if not the greatest — political comebacks in American History.” He goes on to compare Gingrich to Reagan, Clinton and Nixon. “All were pronounced politically dead by the intelligentsia but they had other ideas, as does Gingrich.”
It’s hard to argue with Shirley on this point. But of the three, I think Gingrich’s situation most closely resembles that of Nixon. Even when Reagan lost to Ford in 1976, it was by the narrowest of margins. Although he wasn’t considered a lock to win in 1980 the fact that he ran came to the suprise of no one. Clinton’s comebacks came before and during his presidency (i.e. Gennifer Flowers, the Republican takeover of Congress and Monica Lewinsky).
Conversely, Nixon’s political career appeared to be over when he lost the California gubernatorial race to Pat Brown in 1962 when he famously said, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” A reporter from Time Magazine who attended that conference wrote, “Barring a miracle, Vice President Nixon’s political career is over.” Almost six years to the day of that press conference, Nixon was elected the 37th President of the United States.
While Nixon appeared to have taken his final shot at the media in 1962, Gingrich has spent most of the 2012 bid running against the media rather than his Republican rivals. If Gingrich should win the GOP nomination and if he goes on to become the 45th President of the United States, his absence from public office would have been nearly twice as long as that of Nixon.
Shirley called Gingrich’s durability “one of his greatest assets.” Well, he will need every last ounce of that durability because it will be put to the test over the next fifty days between now and the Iowa caucus vote. And even if Gingrich prevails in the Hawkeye State, it will only be the beginning.
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