Running less and enjoying it more

This morning, Newt Gingrich addressed a breakfast meeting hosted by The American Spectator. The most newsworthy, though not the most interesting, part of the talk was Gingrich’s response to a question from Bill Sammon about whether he intends to run for president (I’ll try to post on other aspects of the talk tomorrow). Gingrich’s short answer was that if by mid-October a conservative candidate has emerged who can run a strong race against Hillary Clinton (his presumptive Democratic nominee), then Gingrich will not enter. If not, he will decide whether to enter at that time.
This answer clearly leaves the door open. It’s unlikely that any Republican will be running significantly ahead of Clinton in mid-October of this year. Gingrich not only knows this, he essentially said it. In his view, the Republicans are in significant trouble and, barring a major shift of focus, are not likely to make major inroads in the polls until late in 2008 when the public actually confronts the prospect of a liberal Democratic presidency.
But Gingrich’s other answers raise doubt about his desire to run for president, and about the advisability of such a run. For example, he compared asking about his presidential plans to asking Charles de Gaulle, when he was out of power, whether he’s “in a rush to join the pygmies.” The reference to pygmies may or may not have encompassed the current Republican field, but certainly meant the folks who participate in the procees of sorting out the field, such as Chris Matthews to whom Gingrich referred several times. Noting the resemblance between the primary debates and television game shows, Gingrich said he doesn’t want “to shrink to the level of a trained seal waiting for another fish.” Rather, he wants “to keep doing what I’m doing, and if it doesn’t lead to the presidency, it’s not my problem.”
Since the rules of running for the presidency here aren’t going to change in the next six months (and certainly not to accommodate a figure as controversial as Gingrich), it’s unclear that Gingrich will want to enter the race even if no strong conservative contender emerges. Moreover, his contempt for the selection process, which seemed entirely genuine, suggests that his run would be an unhappy and unsuccessful experience.
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