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Newt Gingrich will run for president: Can he catch on?

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who led the Republican Revolution of '94, has high negatives among general-election voters but knows how to talk and raise money. So who are his people?

By Staff writer / May 11, 2011

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks to reporters after a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, in this March 18 file photo. Gingrich announced on Wednesday via Twitter and Facebook that he is running for president.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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Washington

Newt Gingrich, the man of a million ideas, is now definitively running for president. After some false starts, and years of consideration, the former House speaker is announcing Wednesday via Twitter and Facebook that he’s a full-fledged candidate, not just launching an exploratory committee.

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Over the years, Mr. Gingrich has championed welfare reform, term limits, a balanced-budget amendment, tough-on-crime initiatives, and reduced government regulation. Now his big issues are energy, jobs, health care, and American “exceptionalism.” He’s also wild about zoos, and will happily discuss his favorites. And he has a big network of followers and donors.

But Gingrich isn’t exactly the freshest face in the field, and can be brusque.

He led the Republican Revolution of 1994, ending the Democrats’ 40-year reign in the House, and took over as speaker in 1995. He resigned both the speakership and his House seat just four years later, after Republican losses in the midterms, but he has remained in the public eye, as a prolific author, speaker, commentator, documentary-maker, and policy entrepreneur.

He begins the race with high name ID, though, while it’s still early, polls show he hasn’t caught fire yet as a presidential candidate. Social conservatives are holding him at arm’s length, in large part because of infidelities while married to his first two wives.

So the question becomes, can the 67-year-old Gingrich reinvent himself and catch on? In the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls, Gingrich comes in fifth at 7.7 percent among potential and declared GOP candidates. The latest Quinnipiac poll confirmed that he continues to have high negatives among general-election voters: Some 42 percent said they “would never vote for” Gingrich. The only two potential GOP candidates with higher “never vote for” numbers were former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and billionaire Donald Trump, both at 58 percent.

“Gingrich’s main challenge,” writes University of Virginia politics-watcher Larry Sabato on Twitter, is “not substantial baggage and prickly personality, but image as yesterday’s man.”

Intelligence will shine through

Former associates of the former speaker say “nonsense,” that when the campaign becomes about issues and not personalities, Gingrich’s formidable intelligence will shine through and Republican voters will see that he can go toe to toe against President Obama.

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