Monday, September 24, 2007

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will begin next week to seek financial commitments from donors for a presidential-nomination bid, the Georgia Republican told The Washington Times yesterday.

If he can get pledges for $30 million over the next three weeks, he will join the Republican presidential-nomination race — a prospect he had been downplaying until yesterday.

But the prospect of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York winning the Democratic nomination and the presidency is moving more voters to seek him out, he told The Times.

“As people have grown more worried about the Clinton machine and the prospect of a second Clinton presidency, more and more people have been approaching me about running,” Mr. Gingrich said.

“Next Monday, Randy Evans, my friend and adviser since 1976, will hold a press briefing and explain how he intends to review whether it is realistic for me to consider running,” Mr. Gingrich said.

“I am happy to compete in the world of ideas, but to compete in modern campaigns you have to have at least a threshold of donations,” he said. “We believe that threshold is about $30 million.”

“If Randy reports back in the next three weeks that there are that many people who want a strong advocate to debate Senator Clinton and present new solutions and new approaches, then Callista and I would have a real duty as citizens,” he said, referring to his wife.

But finances matter, he said, noting that the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance regulations have “rigged campaigns against middle-class candidates and in favor of the rich” and that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney “could write a check for $100 million if he wants to and has already written several large checks” for his GOP presidential-nomination campaign.

He noted that he drew more than 800 Republicans to a Michigan Republican event Saturday on Mackinac Island, which he called “very encouraging.”

In an interview yesterday on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Gingrich said winning $30 million in commitments would be like having his “fellow citizens … walk in and say, ‘You know, we think you’re the person who ought to debate Senator Clinton, and we think you’re the person who can actually explain where we ought to go.’ ”

“How could you turn to them and say, ‘Well, I’m too busy?’ Couldn’t do it.”

The Georgia Republican is holding off until next week because he is “focusing totally” on his “American Solutions workshops” on Thursday and Saturday, “reaching out across the whole country on a totally bipartisan basis.”

The big question for Mr. Gingrich is whether he can mount a national nomination campaign without any formal organization already on the ground in the states, especially since enough of them are holding primaries and caucuses to pick a nominee by Feb. 5.

Mr. Evans recently told The Washington Times that Mr. Gingrich can pick up elements of the campaign organizations and their financial backers that now belong to declared Republican candidates who will be dropping out of the contest for lack of voter support.

Another factor in Mr. Gingrich’s favor is his recognized speaking skill, matched with a largely expanded access to a greater variety of television outlets.

“I think in the age of television, we are reaching more people today than Abraham Lincoln reached personally his entire career,” he told Fox News yesterday.

“Your show has literally that much more penetration,” he said. “So I think in the age of television, I’ve been in Iowa many times.”

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