Arrogance is an asset in politics and a prerequisite for the presidency. You have to have a healthy ego to conclude you’re singularly capable of tackling the challenges that beset the U.S. If the Republican presidential primary were a contest of egos, Newt Gingrich would be the dominant front-runner.
Alas, it’s not. And with a skeletal staff, spotty travel schedule and uneven poll numbers, Gingrich’s presidential campaign often seems sustained by sheer faith in his own intellect. On Thursday in Iowa, he unveiled his new set of policy proposals, dubbed a “21st Century Contract With America,” in typically grandiose terms. “The scale of change I am suggesting is so enormous, I couldn’t possibly as a single leader show you everything I’m going to do,” he boasted.
Beneath the hype, the blueprint–which takes its name from the document crafted by Gingrich that helped sweep Republicans back into power in the House in the mid-1990s–is stocked with familiar Republican solutions and campaign boilerplate. Gingrich wants to repeal “Obamacare,” cut regulations and taxes, secure the border, balance the budget, work toward energy independence, reform social-safety net programs, accelerate medical research. Few Republicans will quarrel with these overarching goals, but they’re plucked from the GOP grab-bag. There are promises to issue an unspecified batch of executive orders repealing the Obama agenda and a commitment to harnessing citizen input through social media. The scale of change seems to match the prescriptions put forth by his competitors.
Even if you stipulate the enormity of the ideas, there remains the nagging question of Newt’s power to implement them. Doing so would require him first to win the nomination, and while his poll numbers have inched north as Rick Perry’s have fallen, his campaign can more closely resembles a publicity tour than a credible presidential bid. “There is no path to the nomination,” a former campaign aide told the Associated Press this week.
That’s partly because Gingrich has refused to jump through the hoops winning requires, like raising money. On Thursday, mere hours away from the third-quarter filing deadline, he rebuked a reporter, Seema Mehta of the L.A. Times, when she asked how his fundraising was going. “See, I knew you couldn’t resist. I’m not going to answer you,” Gingrich snapped. “You should really go home and think about why you would even ask that today.”