Gingrich presidential run stresses faith
Newt Gingrich, who officially announced his White House bid Wednesday, is bringing a different approach to this contest than he did to his previous stint in public office.
Tribune Washington bureau
Catholics criticize Boehner : Three days before House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Catholic University, more than 75 professors at Roman Catholic colleges — including many from the university — have written the Catholic speaker, criticizing him for having a record "among the worst in Congress" on protecting the poor. The letter, released Wednesday, does not protest Boehner's visit or ask the school to rescind its invitation. But it says the budget he shepherded through the House will hurt the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable, and that he therefore has failed to uphold basic Catholic moral teachings.
Huckabee prayers: Potential presidential aspirants usually seek cash before waging a campaign. Mike Huckabee wants your prayers. To that end, a website has been launched seeking divine inspiration for the former Arkansas governor, www.prayforhuckabee.com. He says that he is considering running for president in 2012 and, "I am asking for God's guidance now, and I humbly ask that you would join me in prayer as I seek to discern His will for my life." The website also includes a form that requires users to submit their full name and email address to log their support. That information could be used to appeal for donations.
Texas Senate: As expected, Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, filed paperwork Wednesday to run as a Democrat for the open U.S. Senate seat in Texas in 2012. Sanchez lives in San Antonio.
Seattle Times news services
WASHINGTON — Newt Gingrich is entering the 2012 presidential race a familiar face: a 20-year veteran of Congress who served a polarizing turn as House speaker before assuming a career as a political commentator and author.
But Gingrich, who officially announced his White House bid Wednesday on Twitter, is bringing a different approach to this contest than he did to his previous stint in public office.
In his speeches and campaign appearances, he is expected to lay out a political vision that intertwines fiscal and social conservatism, drawing from a newfound interest in religion.
It's a message he's expected to deliver Friday at the Georgia Republican Party convention in what advisers are billing as his formal announcement speech, an address that will marry the concept of American exceptionalism with an emphasis on God-endowed rights.
The strategy is aimed at shoring up Gingrich's standing with the party's social conservative wing, a constituency that regarded him with suspicion, in part because of his three marriages and admission of an extramarital affair.
But in recent years, the former speaker has made gains among evangelical leaders, the result of aggressively cultivating relationships with influential national figures and local pastors in key nominating states.
Gingrich, who was raised a Lutheran and became a Southern Baptist when he entered politics, converted two years ago to the Roman Catholic faith of his third wife, Callista, an experience he said shaped his new focus on faith. Since then, he created a nonprofit organization aimed at religious conservatives, Renewing American Leadership, or ReAL, appointing to the board evangelical leaders such as Jim Garlow of Skyline Church in California and David Barton of the Texas-based WallBuilders.
He helped secure seed money last year for a successful campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court judges who approved same-sex marriage in the state.
Gingrich is hoping his network of conservative Christian leaders will help him win over evangelical voters, who play an outsize role in selecting the winner of the presidential nominating contests in Iowa and South Carolina.
In 2008, evangelicals made up 60 percent of Republican caucusgoers in Iowa, up from 40 percent in recent years. The large boost was attributed to the candidacy of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist pastor who won the GOP caucus.
Whether Gingrich's strategy succeeds depends in part on what Huckabee decides to do this year.
"Newt has a real shot at mobilizing the evangelical Christian community," said David Lane, an influential organizer of conservative Christians, noting Gingrich's extensive outreach to pastors.
But if Huckabee runs again, Lane added, Gingrich "might have a more difficult time."
Gingrich has a known advantage over his competitors, thanks to a network of profit and nonprofit organizations he assembled since leaving Congress. The various organizations, including American Solutions and ReAL, have together collected more than 1.7 million voter and donor contacts and raised more than $30 million between 2009 and 2010.
He also has long-standing credibility within the party on fiscal matters, in part because of his work on a balanced budget as House speaker. But casting his economic message in moral terms is critical, said Dennis Goldford, a professor of politics at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
"Because the economy has become such a predominant issue, you've got a lot of social conservatives concerned their issues are going to be pushed into the background," he said.
Whether the former speaker can appeal to them is an open question, Goldford said, adding that Gingrich "carries a lot of baggage."
Gingrich has done his best to dispel those concerns in private meetings with pastors, expressing contrition for his past personal failings. Publicly, he has stressed a need for the party to emphasize morality.
"I'm here to tell you that if you don't start with values ... the rest of it doesn't matter," Gingrich told a conservative conference organized by Rep. Steve King of Iowa in March.
Still, he's no slam-dunk candidate.
At 67, he'll be among the oldest Republicans seeking support from a GOP electorate that seems to be searching for a fresher face.
"Newt's been in the Beltway. He's a retread or, as one political consultant called him, a 'legacy candidate,' " said Judson Phillips, founder of the website Tea Party Nation.
Then too, Gingrich resigned from Congress under an ethics cloud: The House reprimanded him in 1997 and ordered him to pay $30,000 for failing to ensure that financing for two projects he was involved in didn't violate federal tax law and for giving false information to the House ethics committee.
Many voters also found Gingrich hypocritical for leading President Clinton's impeachment for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, while Gingrich was having a secret affair with a staff aide, his current wife, Callista, whom he married after his second divorce.
"His history will be a big challenge in New Hampshire," said Jennifer Horn, the president of We the People, a New Hampshire conservative group. "His time in Washington had some success, but it always wasn't successful. It's not just the personal issues; it's the political as well."
Material from McClatchy Newspapers is included in this report.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.