Does Newt Gingrich stand a chance in 2012?

The former House Speaker is launching a full-fledged run for the presidency this week. Is he a real contender, or an amusing sideshow?

Newt Gingrich officially begins his bid for the presidency this week, and though he has a network of donors, his personal baggage could weigh him down.
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/ Getty Images)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has signalled that he'll launch a full-fledged presidential campaign Wednesday, skipping the exploratory committee stage. Gingrich has spent years paving the way for a presidential run, with what The Wall Street Journal calls "Newt Inc." — a network of donors, voter contacts, GOP activists, and policy wonks from his several branded nonprofits and advocacy groups. Still, he rarely polls as well as other top GOP hopefuls, and he carries a lot of baggage in the form of past government shutdowns and much-publicized adultery scandals. So is this just a quixotic bid, or does Bill Clinton's '90s foil have a real shot in 2012?

Gingrich could pull this off: Newt has a lifetime's worth of personal baggage, but he also "has fairly robust credibility on the Right," says Michael J.W. Stickings at The Reaction. And with such a weak GOP field, he could hit the sweet spot where he's acceptable to all the Republican factions: A big enough name for the top donors, old school enough to be "the establishment's anti-Romney," and far-right enough to satisfy Tea Partiers and social conservatives.

"Newt Gingrich set to announce 2012 presidential bid"

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He can't win, but it's good that he's running: "Gingrich is unlikely to woo enough voters to win the GOP presidential nomination," says GOP strategist Mark McKinnon at The Daily Beast. But the Republican field will benefit from him trying: His intellect will, thankfully, "raise the level of the debate." Still, Newt leads with his head and mouth, not his heart, and that won't fly in today's GOP. "We already have a professor as president," and Republicans want something new.

"Newt Gingrich can't save the GOP"

It all depends which Newt shows up: The thing that makes it hard to handicap Newt's chances, says Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post, is that "when Gingrich is good he's very good and when he's bad he's very bad." If "Good Newt" and his big ideas show up to campaign, watch out. But if "Bad Newt" dominates, with his rambling asides and gaffes, he'll end up "a sideshow — a highly entertaining one," but not a contender.

"Newt Gingrich: Serious candidate or sideshow?"

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