Sat, Mar 05, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Gingrich exploring presidential bid on Republican ticket


Former US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich on Thursday edged toward becoming the first big-name Republican to challenge US President Barack Obama in next year’s election.

Gingrich, known for budget battles with then-US president Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s, said he would explore a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in the weeks ahead.

“We are excited about exploring whether there is sufficient support for my potential candidacy for president of this exceptional country,” Gingrich and his wife, Callista, said on

He stopped short of announcing a formal presidential exploratory committee. That gives him time to work out his extensive business affairs before becoming a formal candidate.

Gingrich’s tiptoe closer to a race reflected the slow pace of the Republican campaign to decide who will challenge Obama next year. No prominent Republican has yet made the plunge, although several are close to announcements in the weeks and months ahead.

While Republicans won big in November congressional elections, most agree that it will be difficult to unseat Obama, particularly if the US jobless rate shows improvement from its current 9 percent.

Gingrich, 67, should be considered a “long shot” because some evangelical voters are wary of the fact that he was twice divorced before his current marriage, said Merle Black, political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

“Gingrich has a lot of political talent. He can make succinct arguments and criticisms. But he has had a lot of problems in the past with indiscipline ... and in a presidential campaign that can be a big problem,” Black said.

Gingrich, who believes Obama has saddled the US with deeper debt and deficits, has flirted with a presidential race for years. He led the Republican “revolution” that took control of the House in 1994 elections and he was House speaker from 1995 to 1998.

Gingrich’s Republicans shut down the government in a standoff with Clinton. Republicans were seen as losing that fight because the Democratic president was re-elected in 1996, but Gingrich argues the standoff set the stage for a 1996 budget deal that led to a big drop in spending.

Government spending is again a major bone of contention with Republicans, and the budget deficit is set to reach a record US$1.65 trillion this year.

Gingrich is now chairman of American Solutions, a group that advances conservative causes, and has been traveling frequently to the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to test the waters.

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