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Does Newt Really Want to Be President?

A few days ago I saw Rick Tyler, the ex-Gingrich spokesman who joined a mass resignation from the former speaker’s campaign this summer, on MSNBC looking positively repentant. He admitted that he’d misjudged Gingrich’s viability as a presidential candidate and enthused about him in a way that might embarrass an actual paid spokesman. 

But, reading Jonathan Martin’s excellent Politico piece about Newt this morning, I got the impression Tyler and his former colleagues were right the first time: 

Gingrich is getting pounded on Iowa TV by both a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC and Ron Paul’s campaign and is doing little to fight back against ads which take direct aim at him. Less than three weeks before the caucuses, the former speaker is airing a single commercial with little money behind it. ...
Gingrich’s response suggests a lack of urgency: on Wednesday he held a wonky seminar on brain science in this liberal college town. He had plans to return to Washington for a book-signing after Thursday’s debate in Sioux City, without scheduling any public events in the conservative-heavy northwest corner of the state.

Newt obviously doesn’t want to do the things you generally have to do if you want to become president. More to the point, I don’t think he even wants to be president—by which I mean, undertake the grueling, 24-7 challenge of running a country. It’s much more of a grind than his current lifestyle of book-hawking, seminar-giving, and extravagant vacationing. (I think he’d be happy to do a job where he gets called “Mr. President” but someone else takes care of the demanding stuff.)

My sense is that what’s motivated Newt these past few months is just ego—a determination to prove that he could be president if he really wanted to, that the idea isn’t patently absurd, the way most commentators and even his own staff concluded this summer. But having proved his point, I don’t think Newt has much more to play for. If he’s campaigning like a man who’s already done what he set out to do, that’s probably because he has. 

P.S. A colleague points out that Newt has actually suggested as much himself. Here's what he told our own Jason Zengerle back in 2006: 

"Nixon had this remarkably effective, deeply intense will to power," he says. "Reagan and I have a will to ideas." 

The whole piece is very much worth reading. It really gives lie to the idea of a "new Newt." The Newt you see there is pretty much the same Newt you see today.