Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Newt's Trial Balloon Bad News for Thompson

Newt Gingrich has been an interesting side-show to the 2008 presidential race, but if there's anything you can say about him, it's that he's not stupid. Today he's floated a trial balloon -- suggesting that he is again thinking about getting into the presidential race:

Newt Gingrich is moving closer to a presidential nomination bid in a severely divided Republican Party.

"I will decide based on whether I have about $30 million in committed campaign contributions and whether I think it is possible to run a campaign based on ideas rather than 30-second sound bites," the former House speaker told The Washington Times yesterday.
In June, Gingrich was telling friends and supporters that he would only consider getting in if Fred Thompson's candidacy flopped:
Newt Gingrich is telling Republican insiders that his decision in September on whether to run for president in 2008 depends on the progress of Fred Thompson's imminent candidacy.

If Thompson runs a vigorous and effective campaign, Gingrich says privately, he probably will not get in the race. If Thompson proves a dud, however, the former House speaker will seriously consider making a run. That implies that the others in the field look to Gingrich like losers in the general election.

It's no great insight to say that Thompson's campaign hasn't gone as he would have liked it the last 2 months or so. Plenty of folks think he took too long to get in, and some of the bloom has gone off the rose. He has a narrow window here to get traction and recapture some of the mystique and aura he had in the Spring. If he can consolidate a good chunk of the conservative vote -- attracting those dissatisfied with Giuliani or Romney -- then he can shut Gingrich out.

If not, Gingrich might do the same thing to Thompson that Thompson did to the others: Freeze the field (somewhat) while primary voters wait to see what he will do. If Thompson has another few bad weeks, and Gingrich floats a few more trial balloons, some primary voters may decide to keep their powder dry, while they wait to see if Gingrich is their man.

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