Newt and Nunn: Two names churning up the waters

Matt Towery's picture

In the past few weeks I’ve been in communication with two names, one known to most Americans, the other probably only remembered by media and political leaders. Both are part of the 2008 presidential drama. It remains to be seen if they will become full-fledged participants.

Let me start with the less frequently discussed former Georgia U.S. Senator Sam Nunn. Nunn was, in his heyday, the Democratic Party’s most respected expert on issues related to national defense and foreign affairs. That reputation continues to follow him among those most informed and active in the defense and intelligence communities.

Several weeks ago I wrote a story suggesting that Nunn might be considering a run as an independent candidate for president. The story, written for the Southern Political Report, included a separate piece written by Larry Walker, a former top Georgia Democratic legislator and close friend of Nunn’s, confirming the possibility.

While I thought the concept unlikely, I knew that Walker as a source was unimpeachable. What shocked me is that Nunn, who was known for his studious and quiet demeanor, subsequently gave interviews to a television station and the Associated Press confirming his interest in a possible third-party candidacy, noting that the only position he would be interested in would likely be the presidency.

For political neophytes this may sound like a meaningless story. But for those who have been around a while, a Nunn candidacy could shake the very foundation of the political landscape in a year in which Americans seem dissatisfied with “all of the above.”

Could he raise the money? Probably so. The former senator is highly respected by some of the most influential and wealthy people in America.

Could he have an impact on the outcome in November ‘08? Absolutely. Most observers view Nunn’s politics as slightly left of center, but not to the degree of the Democratic field in general. And Nunn’s experience as the Democrat’s former leader on defense matters might tempt moderate Republican voters who are frustrated over their party’s unclear approach to the war in Iraq and the War on Terrorism.

That leads to the better-known name, Newt Gingrich. Earlier this week, I spent time at a small lunch with Gingrich and a group of his longtime and closest friends. Clearly the focus of Gingrich’s time and effort is the American Solutions movement he is spearheading. The program is designed to create citizen involvement in workshops devoted to unique and advanced approaches to the various issues the nation will confront in coming years.

But in searching out and opining on solutions, Gingrich only accelerates the number of interviews and news stories he generates. And by staying out of the current presidential battle, he is able to provide what the candidates cannot — something for you to talk about.

Consider the upcoming Ames straw poll in Iowa. Many of the major campaigns have decided not to try to win the poll. The event will be a hot and generally boring affair. But wait: Newt Gingrich will be there, conducting a series of workshops on issues, and even having several of the presidential candidates conducting some of them!

The fact is that if the Fred Thompson campaign doesn’t pick up life, and its candidate start showing fire in his belly when he speaks, it is more than likely that Newt Gingrich will convene his “kitchen cabinet” in October and consider seriously the concept of entering the race. It’s just that simple.

While Gingrich says both privately and publicly that Hillary Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee, and by all normal political analysis the likely winner in ‘08, he “will not let Hillary go unopposed.” In other words, if someone doesn’t get hot, Gingrich could easily be in the race. And let me assure you that a loss to Hillary would not be in any of his analysis models.

Both Nunn and Gingrich are currently sidebar conversations for a very hot, boring and all too long political season. But if either one decides to jump into the water, what has been a snooze of a political race will become the greatest show on earth.

[Matt Towery served as the chairman of former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s political organization from 1992 until Gingrich left Congress. He is a former Georgia state representative, the author of several books and currently heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.] COPYRIGHT 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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