Gingrich Takes Steps Toward A Presidential Bid
By Candy Crowley/CNN
WASHINGTON (Feb. 27) -- It's 2 p.m. Friday, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich is off and running. The question is, running for what?
"As speaker of the House, I have a national obligation to all my members to be in their districts and go out and spread the message," Gingrich told CNN.
Since January the speaker has spread the message in 24 states. Just for the heck of it, we added up the electoral votes represented: 383.
Anyway, this weekend Gingrich is in Biloxi, Miss., for a Republican get-together. They'll have a straw poll of possible presidential candidates on Sunday.
He'll also attend a big fund-raiser in Iowa. You remember Iowa, where the first presidential caucuses are held.
On Capitol Hill the road map conjures up all kinds of interesting scenarios involving the speaker of the House.
Rep. Bill Tauzin (R-La.) said, "Sometime during the next Congress he may well decide to vacate the post and enter the primaries and speculation is so loud and so strong today that it is getting to be very believable."
The precursors of a presidential bid are all there. Gingrich has dropped some weight and is holding his tongue.
Monica Lewinsky? Gingrich wouldn't touch it. "None of us are going to have any comment on the White House situation," Gingrich said last month.
The United Nation-arranged agreement with Iraq? "I think we should view it calmly. Research it," he said.
So is this Newt Gingrich, the mellow years? "I think part of what you're seeing is, I'm trying to learn what is a pretty big job," Gingrich said.
Whatever he's doing, it's helping. The speaker's job approval rating has jumped almost 20 points from a year ago.
Ask him repeatedly if he's running for president, and the speaker sounds, well, open to the idea. "To the degree that any speculation means we can get the message out better, fine," he said.
His party's No. 1 fund-raiser, Gingrich's obvious appeal among the party faithful would make him a force to reckon with in the primaries.
But Democrats insist that make-overs aside, Gingrich was, is, and always will be a polarizing figure, which is why Democrats give Gingrich the nod as the man they would most like to run against.