Newt Gingrich has been a lot of things: a college professor, a backbencher in the U.S. House, an influential speaker of the House, a former congressman, a well-paid speaker and author.
Now, he’s a presidential candidate and one of the leaders of the Republican pack vying for the chance to run against President Obama in 2012. Newt was not supposed to be here at this point; most of the insiders and observers said Gingrich was dead in the water last summer when many of his staffers abandoned him to work for Texas Gov, Rick Perry and his campaign coffers appeared empty.
But Gingrich refused to accept the diagnosis that he was a walking political dead man and continued to show up for the seemingly endless GOP debates while campaigning, speaking to the media and denouncing reports of his political demise.
Now, after other Republican contenders have popped to the top and then faded, Gingrich has survived and surfaced near the front as the primaries loom ahead.
All this despite three wives, admissions of infidelity, questionable book deals, reports of million-dollar paychecks from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and a checkered career in Congress that ended with him leaving Washington, D.C., after being outfoxed by another white-haired Southern rascal, Bill Clinton.
Now, interestingly enough, Bill Clinton has kind words for his former foe.
Newt has risen this year with strong performances at the debates and with Republicans recalling him as a powerful figure and advocate for their causes and beliefs. It also helps that the frontrunner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, is a Mormon who is also perceived as a, gasp, moderate. That’s a pair of strikes for many GOP voters.
Speaking of which, it is unusual with two Mormons in the running for the GOP nomination — Romney and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman — Gingrich is the one with multiple wives. Will that hurt him eventually?
Can Newt survive? Does he have a real chance to win the GOP nomination? Would you vote for him in 2012? And what kind of president would Newt be if he does win?