UPDATE at 4:40 p.m.: A couple of hours ahead of schedule, he’s in.
Tonight, Newt Gingrich will announce he’s definitely running for president. At least, that’s what he appeared to announce Monday. And, really, everyone has considered him a part of the race for months now.
Opinion polls are rating him third or, more commonly, lower among what pretty much everyone agrees is shaping up as a lackluster GOP field. The last time he rated in the top two, according to the aggregation at Real Clear Politics, was in November. And that was a bit of an outlier, given that no pollster besides that one (Public Policy Polling) has found Gingrich higher than third. The RCP average of seven recent polls shows Gingrich fifth, a fraction of a percentage point ahead of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
Gingrich will surely soon rise above Donald Trump, who’s been running ahead of him for the past few weeks. Two of the others ahead of him on average, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, might not end up running for the office. Gingrich has been doubling the usual score of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, seemingly everyone’s pick for the not-Mitt Romney pick of the GOP establishment. And it is, of course, very early in the race.
I hear from a lot of people who say they don’t think Gingrich will get the nomination, and that they themselves won’t support him in the primary — but, on the other hand, he’s the one they’d most like to see debate Obama face to face. Which is pretty curious. It makes me think that they think Gingrich’s personality and intellect would match up well with Obama’s on a stage.
One commonality of the past five presidential elections is that the more appealing personality, between the Democratic and Republican nominees, has emerged as the winner each time. (The candidate with active-duty, regular military experience has also lost each of the past five elections, but that strikes me as less likely to have been a conscious decision by voters — and, anyway, this year is likely to be the first time in a while that neither major-party nominee has military experience, which is also curious given that we’re in the middle of two wars and a kinetic military activity in Libya. But I digress.)
I doubt many independent voters would admit to pulling the lever based on personality — persona might be a better word — in the race. But, given the great importance we all assign to the independent vote, it does make me wonder.
So, two questions for y’all. First, ye independents among us: How much does personality/persona matter? (Remember, most of you are anonymous here…you can answer truthfully.) And second: Since Gingrich is today’s story, am I right that people see him, from a personality/persona/intellect standpoint, being a threat to Obama?
Bonus question: If not Newt’s personality, among the announced or potential GOP candidates, whose?
– By Kyle Wingfield