Newt Gingrich: To Only Kind of Know Him is to Love Him

NEW YORK - MAY 15: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich takes a question before signing his book ‘Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th’ at a Barnes and Noble bookstore May 15, 2007 in the Staten Island borough of New York City. Gingrich is reportedly considering a presidential run but has not made any definitive statement yet about running. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

One of the sideshows I’m looking forward to during the Newt surge is the Weekly Standard’s rediscovery of its original hero. The first issue of Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes’s magazine featured Speaker Newt swinging into action in full Rambo regalia. Headline: “Permanent Offense.” The new issue of the magazine gives us Newt as a wrestler, having stopped the “Media” into sticky paste. Headline: “The Comeback Kid!”

Good stuff, but Michael Warren takes it too far.

A new poll suggests Newt Gingrich may be closing the electabilty gap with voters in key swing states. According to Purple Poll, Gingrich is just two points behind President Barack Obama in a head to head match-up. The poll, which surveys likely voters in 12 swing states, found that Obama earned 46 percent support compared to Gingrich’s 44 percent, with 10 percent “not sure.”

Barack Obama’s been a pretty lousy president, sure, but there’s strong evidence that we’re catching Gingrich at the height of his late career popularity. Nobody’s taken a swing at him in any real way for six months. (Mitt Romney delivered a slap on the health care mandate in the Vegas debate; that’s about it.) Swing voters haven’t paid attention to him, either. But Gingrich is the same guy that got demonized and hoisted by his petard 13 years ago. Take his comments from his Kennedy School Q&A.

You say to somebody, you shouldn’t go to work before you’re what, 14, 16 years of age, fine. You’re totally poor. You’re in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I’ve tried for years to have a very simple model. Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.

Now, the speaker has always been taken with the idea of assigning people to maintain the places they live or work in; in To Renew America, his controversial* 1995 policy book, he talks up how the Kennilworth Apartments started requiring that janitors lived in the building. I don’t think turning janitors into unemployed people would be worth the cost of drumming some respect into kids, but hey, it’s an idea. It’s also not the sort of thing presidential candidates let themselves talk about. Maybe American voters have turned into contrarian-ism loving Slate readers since 1998, but there’s a good chance they have it, and Gingrich is going to react to the new attention like Bill Compton reacting to a sunbeam.

*controversial for the contract he signed, not so much for the content.