The New Newt

by Steven F. Hayward

Having heard Newt Gingrich effusively praising Paul Ryan as the indispensable man for the fiscal future of the nation just two months ago, I’m still puzzling his decision to put some distance between himself and Ryan now. Surely Ryan’s Medicare proposal can’t be the whole reason, notwithstanding Newt’s depth on health care. Ryan’s proposal is not exactly a bolt out of the blue; something like it was fairly explicit in his “Roadmap” last year.

So I’m wondering if there isn’t a large element of political calculation here, against the possibility that Ryan might jump in the presidential race later this year, and immediately challenge Newt’s place as the preeminent candidate of ideas. It would be hard to pivot on a dime to attacking Ryan and his ideas at that late moment, so why not do it now as a way of keeping him out of the race or preparing the battle space in case he does?

In 1968 the great game for political analysts was trying to figure out “the new Nixon.” Looks like figuring out “the new Newt” will be this cycle’s equivalent mystery.