Newt Gingrich’s never-ending “campaign to nowhere” won’t hurt his legacy, but the two TV ads he will likely star in this fall very well could.
As Newt Gingrich hangs on in the Republican primary race despite the fact that his prospects for victory have shrunk to essentially zero, some friends of the former speaker have expressed concern that his insistence on staying at the bar long after it has closed will tarnish his legacy.
“As this goes on, he’s hurting himself,” former Rep. Vin Weber, a Romney supporter who is a friend of Gingrich, told the Politico for a story titled, “Newt puts political legacy at risk.”
“At first, he helped himself. He was a serious presidential contender and a great debater. But now he’s diminishing himself. Part of his legacy is going to be the guy who insisted on running an unserious campaign for president.”
But Gingrich won’t seriously harm his legacy by staying in the race too long. These things are quickly forgotten. Just look at 2008.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee stayed in the 2008 Republican primary race far beyond the point where he had any chance of besting John McCain for the nomination. Yet hardly anyone remembers that today. In fact, many believe that if Huckabee had entered the 2012 race, he would now be the front-runner for the nomination.
In a different way, Bill Clinton also demonstrated how campaign moments are often short remembered. During the 2008 Democratic primary, he was harshly criticized by some Democrats for the way he went after then-Sen. Barack Obama. Media commentators told us he was doing lasting damage to his legacy. Fast forward four years and Clinton is at the zenith of his popularity. His sharp attacks on Obama are lost to history.
If Gingrich’s White House run is to harm his legacy, it won’t be because he stayed in the race too long. It will be from starring in Democratic attack ads this fall that hurt the Republican presidential nominee as well as House members running for re-election. I bet he will star in two such ads.
The first will attack House members for supporting Paul Ryan’s budget plan that courageously attempts to put our fiscal house in order. Gingrich called it “radical” on “Meet the Press” at the very start of his campaign. Democrats will surely use Gingrich’s words to slam Republican House members. You can just hear the ad declaring over ominous music: ”Even Newt Gingrich called the plan ‘radical.’”
The second ad will likely focus on Mitt Romney’s business experience, using Gingrich and the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning the Future’s outrageous Michael Moore-style attacks against Romney’s business career earlier in the race to highlight that even Republicans said Romney’s business practices were rapacious and unseemly. Or as Newt himself suggested during the campaign, Romney engaged in “looting” as head of Bain Capital.
And it is not like Gingrich’s words are going to be used unfairly or that his attacks were legitimate. They won’t and they weren’t. He used the language of the left to tarnish Romney and the GOP, and now the Democrats are going to use his words to make their left-wing attacks appeal to independents, using the “conservative” Newt Gingrich to buttress the legitimacy of their case.
If Newt’s legacy is to be tarnished by his presidential run, it will be as the result of what he has already said and how the Democrats use it to try to sink Republicans this fall. History shall scant remember that he opted to stay in the White House race a little longer than warranted.