Back in June 2011, as the rest of the Republican hopefuls were jogging laps, trying to get in shape for the mad dash to the nomination in 2012, Newt Gingrich was floating around the Aegean Sea with wife Callista, just trying not to catch a sunburn.
This decision, to cruise rather than campaign, aggravated Gingrich’s then campaign manager Rob Johnson and his then spokesperson Rick Tyler so much that the two men and a bus load of aides quit team Gingrich, saying the former Speaker of the House wasn’t serious enough about running for President.
They all may be having second thoughts now. After the 68-year-old Gingrich pulled off a win in South Carolina, he is suddenly neck-and-neck with the odds-on favorite, Mitt Romney. Gallup even has Gingrich ahead by one percentage point in their latest poll of GOP ballot support.
Unexpected maybe, but certainly no surprise. If there is one thing Newt Gingrich knows it is television, and more specifically the key role it plays in the American political process.
In a recent New York Times article, Sheryl Gay Stolberg draws the connection between Gingrich’s introduction to Congress and the nascent broadcasts of CSPAN. “Night after night,” writes Stolberg, “he would lambaste Democrats, speaking in an empty house chamber after the day’s legislative business was done. Mr. Gingrich would needle Democrats, challenging them to come forward and defend themselves. No one did, because no one was there.”
Only a television camera. With Gingrich addressing the empty seats like Lonesome Rhodes at the end of “A Face in The Crowd” performing for his clap box. “Marcia! Marcia! Don’t leave me!”
But after seeing the final Republican debate in South Carolina, it seems those old days in Congress, speaking to only the man pushing the broom and the thousands of people tuned to CSPAN, were Gingrich’s warm up laps for his run to the Oval Office this year.
We are in a period of postmodern politics. The camera light is always on. The keypads, like the one I’m pounding right now, are always clicking. Politicians are as much like rock stars as The Rolling Stones. Just as one may assume to know what happens backstage at a Stones show, they could just as easily assume the nasty things their elected officials are concealing.
But not Newt Gingrich.
His philandering, his divorces, his ethics violation, the borderline racist things he says; these are things that look bad in that murky light called a man’s private life. But by being upfront and unapologetic for them, they somehow look good on Gingrich, even natural, like his powdery sugar-white hair.
The public seems to want to accept a politician warts and all. Even Herman Cain raised most of his money after the sexual harassment story broke.
So in a strange way, John King asking Gingrich to comment on something as strange as possibly asking his wife with multiple sclerosis to consent to an open marriage plays directly into Gingrich’s hands. The Republican electorate, weary of mainstream media in the first place, see the question as dwelling on the obvious, on common knowledge. Newt will sometimes act like a ghoul, so what? Let’s, as Gingrich has said, talk about the issues.
This article was originally published on allvoices.com and chosen as a semi-monthly winner, on January 31, in Allvoices “American Pundit” writing contest. http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/11414567-election-2012-why-newt-gingrich-has-run-the-best-campaign-of-all-republicans