Newt Gingrich: old salt from Washington

No one on the campaign trail knows what it’s like to be down and out quite like Newt Gingrich. The former Speaker of the House has been written off by pundits time and again. Although he has been considered down for the count on multiple occasions, he has managed to outlast much of the competition, including Texas governor, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachman. He has suffered his fair share of setbacks, and has a personal history that is at odds with the social conservatism that many Republicans hold dear. Nonetheless, after some impressive debate performances and a commanding win in South Carolina it has become clear that Gingrich has his sights set on being much more than just a thorn in the side of his opponents.

Although he became a champion of conservative ideas as Speaker of the House in the 1990’s, Gingrich still struggled to gain traction in the polls months after he entered the race for the Republican nomination. His own staff even quit on him, many of them leaving to work for other candidates. However, Gingrich still managed to run his campaign on a shoestring budget and played the role of the elder statesman in the fall debates.

His presence in the debates—where he often criticizes the media—has led to many defining moments on the campaign trail. During the last debate in South Carolina, where about four in five people polled were found to distrust the media, Gingrich was asked by moderator John King to address comments made by his second wife, who alleged that Gingrich had asked for an open marriage. Gingrich called the accusations false, but only after calling King “despicable” and attacking CNN for asking such a question. Gingrich received roaring applause from the audience and carried that momentum into a landslide victory in South Carolina.

However, King’s question was not the only question that his past marriages have brought to the 2012 primaries. It is well known that Gingrich is on his third marriage, and in the family-oriented Republican Party many social conservatives have been hesitant to throw their support behind Gingrich.

Additionally, during his time in Congress he was forced by the House Ethics Committee to pay a fine after it was determined that he broke House rules by violating federal tax law and lying to the committee. For this and other reasons, Gingrich often collides with Washington Republicans, who regard him as too controversial.

Gingrich has played his falling out with Washington to his advantage by portraying himself as a Washington outsider; someone who will come in and change what many feel is a broken political system. This, however, has also come with accusations from his opponents. Especially after it was reported that Gingrich received payment from Freddie Mac as a consultant. Although Gingrich claims that he was merely acting as a historian for the Washington group, his opponents have called Gingrich a lobbyist who profited from his Washington connections, not surprisingly, considering the average wage of regular historians.

Although Gingrich has faced strong adversity from his primary opponents, he consistently defends his conservative values, which cannot be said of Gingrich’s fiercest rival, Mitt Romney. While Romney must defend himself from accusations of being a moderate, Gingrich has no such history to his name. Gingrich, to his credit, has remained very consistent in his positions throughout his political career. The consensus among his supporters is that although he is flawed on a personal level, Gingrich is a fierce conservative who has done an excellent job in contrasting himself with the current administration.

On the same day that Gingrich blasted John King on national television, Rick Perry admitted defeat and suspended his own presidential campaign, and in the process, endorsed Gingrich. Perry reminded a very Christian audience that although Gingrich has an unusually polemic personal history, a central theme of Christianity is forgiveness. Perry urged his followers to overlook Gingrich’s flaws and throw their support behind the former Speaker. Many people have counted Newt Gingrich down and out in several occasions of in the past months of campaigning, but as Rick Perry and others have realized, you count Gingrich out at your own risk.