Newt Gingrich biggest geek in GOP primary race, says Scientific American

Newt Gingrich – also known as 'Newt Skywalker' – topped the Scientific American ranking of six GOP candidates. Ron Paul came in third.

Photo illustration: Jake Turcotte Gingrich (Matt Rourke/AP) 'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' (Lucasfilm Ltd./AP)

Newt Gingrich – a.k.a. "Newt Skywalker" – is by far the biggest geek in the GOP presidential field, according to a Scientific American ranking.

Mitt Romney comes in second, and Ron Paul is third among the six candidates reviewed.

The ranking makes much of Gingrich's immersion in science fiction, including his love of Issac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy. Here's what Newt wrote about this seminal work while he was Speaker of the House in 1996:

While Toynbee was impressing me with the history of civilizations, Isaac Asimov was shaping my view of the future in equally profound ways….For a high school student who loved history, Asimov’s most exhilarating invention was the ‘psychohistorian’ Hari Seldon. The term does not refer to Freudian analysis but to a kind of probabilistic forecasting of the future of whole civilizations.  The premise was that, while you cannot predict individual behavior, you can develop a pretty accurate sense of mass behavior.  Pollsters and advertisers now make a good living off the same theory.

The Scientific American article quotes Bob Walker, a former chairman of the US House Committee on Science (now the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology), who said that Gingrich "would probably be the most knowledgeable president on technology issues ever elected."

The article uses a highly subjective 1 to 5 star ranking in three areas: "Geekiness," "Policies, and "Associations." Gingrich got five stars in the first two areas and four in the last.

What's more, according to Politico, the Georgia politician's forays into futurology in the 1980s and 1990s earned him the monicker  "Newt Skywalker." 

Mitt Romney scored four stars on Geekiness. Romney said in 2007 that his favorite novel was "Battlefield Earth" – a 1,000-page sci-fi yarn spun by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard

The Scientific American article notes Romney, has a "corny sense of humor," but that "being socially awkward is not a sufficient qualification for ascendance to the rank of geek." Lose one geek star.

Ron Paul, says the article, might be better described as a Constitutional "nerd" or a "wonk," but not a geek. Still, author Christopher Mims notes, that many of Paul's libertarian supporters are Bona fide geeks.

The key policy issues that the candidates are ranked on include climate change, research funding, and views on evolution.

Rick Perry, the article states bluntly "is not a geek." But his energy and technology policies as governor of Texas earned him four "policy" stars. 

Reader reaction to the Jan. 3 "Geek Guide" to GOP candidates is a bit harsh. Some readers describe it as "unserious" more of a "dating guide" than a science profile, and object to using an interest in science fiction – rather than accuracy or expertise in a field – as criteria for assessing a political leader's science credentials.

One surprising omission from the article: Jon Huntsman. Remember this Huntsman remark (directed at Gov. Rick Perry) during a September GOP debate:

"Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science."

Who do you think is the biggest geek on the 2012 campaign trail?

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