For someone who has spent exactly zero seconds of his life as a candidate for president, Newt Gingrich certainly does get a lot of attention as a presidential candidate.
The putative GOP candidates have thus far been reticent about making it official, and that has left Gingrich in an ideal position to snap up headlines from freakshow press types hungry for even a morsel of campaign 2012 almost-news. And that's why we're getting wall-to-wall coverage of Gingrich's latest announcement that he plans to plan for a planned exploratory committee to weigh his options for a presidential run.
I think it's worth reminding everyone that Gingrich has only done two things since leaving elected office in disgrace over a decade ago: pretend to run for president, and cash in on the publicity. Now, it's entirely possible that Gingrich is serious this time. I mean, one just doesn't form exploratory committees willy-nilly, right? Well, most people don't. But most people aren't Newt Gingrich.
Throughout 2007, Gingrich performed this same dance, stringing reporters along with announcements about when he would announce his 2008 intentions. He even went so far as to announce that he would be looking into setting up an exploratory committee, and gave every indication that he would, indeed, go through with it. And then, at quite literally the last possible moment, he reversed course and announced that he would not run, but instead focus on his non-profit group:
Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich on Saturday decided against running for president in 2008, less than a day after the Republican indicated publicly that he would spend the next month exploring the viability of a White House bid.
Gingrich said the last-minute change of heart, which came as aides readied the NewtNow.org Web site and prepared to file campaign papers, was the result of legal advice that running for president would require stepping down as chairman of his nonprofit organization, American Solutions.
That group is the latest vehicle for Gingrich's musings about politics and policy, and opened its first-annual "ideas summit" Saturday at a Georgia college an hour west of Atlanta and with webcasts on the Internet.
"American Solutions is in the early stages, I think, of becoming a genuine national citizens movement," Gingrich told reporters. "To walk out of it just as it's getting launched struck me as absolutely irresponsible."
It's impossible to say at this point whether Gingrich, in 2012, is serious about running. Only he knows that for sure. But given his track record and the fact that we've been down this path before, healthy doses of skepticism seem warranted.