Newt Gingrich, though still coy about his presidential ambitions, suggested this morning that he may be able to accomplish more by staying out of the race and focusing on developing and spreading ideas for confronting our nation's challenges.
"What I've outlined here today is vastly more important than anything I could accomplish, at least in the short run, if I were a candidate for president," Gingrich said in the question and answer period following an address he gave at the American Enterprise Institute. He said he would work with all of the campaigns to try to get them to adopt his ideas for transforming government.
Gingrich cautioned that his overall thinking hasn't changed, and he still plans to wait until the end of September to assess whether there is a vacuum in the field for somebody with a bold vision for the nation's future. Earlier this week, he said the odds were 4-1 against his running.
In handicapping the current Republican race, he had good things to say about Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, but he said between campaign finance reform and immigration, John McCain faces the "greatest challenge" of capturing the nomination.
Gingrich said that while he disagrees with Giuliani on social issues and believes those issues "really matter," in a world where a nuclear weapon could destroy an American city, Giuliani can make a case for himself. He said that Giuliani has done a much better job as a candidate than most people expected.
During his formal remarks, Gingrich also singled out Giuliani for praise, using his reforms as mayor as a prime example of how government can be made to function properly by measuring results.
"I commend to you Rudy Giuliani's extraordinary achievements as mayor," Gingrich said. "Today, because he used computer statistics, there is 75 percent less crime in
Later in the speech, Gingrich said, "To be fair, what Gov. Romney did before he was governor, as chairman of the winter Olympics, was a great example of a way to turn things around by being different " He also said that Romney has shown a willingness to work very hard to build a successful campaign.
Gingrich predicted that Fred Thompson also could be a "formidable candidate."
He was not so kind to McCain. During his speech, Gingrich referred to McCain-Feingold as the first legislation to try to silence dissent since the Alien & Sedition Acts, and he blasted the McCain-Kennedy immigration legislation. Both, he later said, would make it a challenge for McCain to win the nomination, though it was still early.
Gingrich urged all of the Republican candidates to study the victory of Nicolas Sarkozy to learn how a politician from the incumbent party can present himself as an agent of change with a public that is unhappy with the status quo.