Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich plans to announce by March 1 whether he will run for president in 2012, and he's already got one endorsement in hand: Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer.
Background and first thoughts about Upmeyer's support and Gingrich's presidential prospects are after the jump.
Yesterday Upmeyer introduced Gingrich before he addressed the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. After his speech, Upmeyer told the audience, "I for one think this is just the right guy to be the president of the United States and I think there's a whole bunch of people in this room who believe that."
Lynn Campbell reported last summer at IowaPolitics.com,
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia has been ramping up his visits to Iowa, recently making his third visit to the state since May. Iowa House Minority Whip Linda Upmeyer, R-Garner, joined him at his visit to the Iowa State Fair, and Gingrich later held a PURSE PAC event with her to benefit women candidates.
One Republican insider said Gingrich is moving "full steam ahead" and is tapping into the "goodwill network" currently provided by Upmeyer and others who have done things through his American Solutions PAC.
In an interview, Upmeyer said that's a good description. She said she's been friends over the years with Gingrich and his wife Callista, and is now helping him to lay the groundwork should he decide to run for president in 2012. She said she isn't getting paid.
"I've tried to help him network with some of the people he may ultimately decide to retain as a part of a campaign if he indeed chooses to run," Upmeyer said. "I'm making suggestions of folks he might want to know."
Legislators can't deliver popular support at the Iowa caucuses. During the last presidential campaign, Mitt Romney picked up more than five times as many Iowa GOP legislative endorsements as Mike Huckabee. However, Upmeyer is well-acquainted with major Iowa Republican donors, as you can see from her campaign finance disclosure reports and those of Purse PAC, which supports Republican women candidates. Not only is she the first woman to hold the position of Iowa House majority leader, she grew up in well-connected Republican circles as the daughter of Iowa House Speaker Del Stromer. For those reasons, Upmeyer made the Des Moines Register's list of "50 Most Wanted" Iowans "who can make or break a GOP presidential candidate."
I couldn't find any record of Upmeyer endorsing a presidential candidate before the 2008 caucuses. According to Kathie Obradovich, Upmeyer said yesterday
that she's a "real fan" of Gingrich, and she's "pretty likely" to support him if he decides to run for president. She said she waited for him in the last election to see if he would run.
There are plenty of reasons for Gingrich not to run for president. He would be 69 years old by inauguration day 2013. He has a messy personal history, as John H. Richardson described in this devastating August 2010 profile in Esquire magazine. His American Solutions 527 group uses dubious fundraising practices to raise money from small donors. American Solutions spends most of its money on administrative costs and promoting Gingrich as opposed to Republican candidates. (Private jet travel is a major expense for American Solutions.) Gingrich has used Veterans Day and the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack to sell books.
Even before the heightened scrutiny that would accompany a presidential bid, Gingrich doesn't poll very well against President Barack Obama nationally or in Iowa.
On the other hand, Gingrich has long held presidential ambitions, and given his age, this cycle would be his last chance. He said in December 2010 that he is "much more inclined to run than not run" in 2012. He has made several trips to Iowa in the past year, including one for a Republican candidate training workshop.
If the early leader Huckabee opts out of a second presidential bid, the Iowa caucuses would be a wide-open race. Judging from Kay Henderson's report, Gingrich's speech to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association yesterday scored high on the pander-meter.
Share any thoughts about Gingrich or the 2012 Republican presidential campaign in this thread.