Nasty Newt Strikes Again

Various media critics saw hopeful 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s May 11 Twitter announcement and pounced on him for trying to appear “cool.” He announced his candidacy for president on Twitter and directed his Twitter followers to the “donate” page of his campaign website. On this page is also a two-minute video message where he makes his announcement and pledge, dressed in a dark suit and wearing a red tie. The background is dark, except for a halo that seems to be emanating from his head and shoulders. Both the message and video are short and sweet.

Yet critics joked he was trying — unsuccessfully — to reach the youthful masses by using Twitter to announce his candidacy to the world. Jon Stewart from “The Daily Show” joked about Gingrich’s video address, which he stated looked as though it had been recorded in a “Sears photo booth with a Casio accompaniment.” Poor Newt. He doesn’t seem able to catch a break, what with a later flub on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the following Sunday and reports of a Palin-esque tab at Tiffany’s. Gingrich declined to comment on the latter.

But he did explain what happened on “Meet the Press.”  While it is true he stated on the NBC show that GOP House Representative Paul Ryan’s proposal to change Medicare was no better than any bid those on the political left offered, it seems his intention was not, as South Carolina’s GOP Gov. Nikki Haley stated, to “cut [Ryan] off at the knees.” What he really meant was that he opposed any abrupt change, regardless of origin on the political spectrum. But, as often is the case when one is in the political spotlight, one’s own words can become weapons for the opposition.

Which is not to say that his words did not incite the ire of his own party; merely that what was made of the story, “Gingrich pisses off the GOP,” spread like uncontrollable wildfire while the more unexciting facts remained shrouded and engulfed by the flames. So Gingrich spent a pretty minute apologizing to Ryan, probably more publicly than privately, which was the appropriate step to take to polish his image. This all seems rather expected.

As a seasoned politician, Gingrich knows what to do. He is aware of the changes that have taken place since his long years in Congress, which is why he decided to Tweet his run for President. The face of campaigning has irrevocably changed, as Barack Obama proved in 2008. Whoever is going to win, Republican or Democrat, is going to need the youth vote.

And it is hard to say exactly what the youth will do in 2012.  After all, many of those who voted back in 2008 may not be as hopeful now, faced with certain employment deficiencies. They may also not be as youthful. This is a consideration of which all hopeful candidates are well aware.  Gingrich, in trying to seem attractive to the more youthful, is only appealing to the demographic to which he is the most distant. He needs the youth as well as the Republican vote.

While Gingrich has no lock on the Republican primary, Mike Huckabee’s decision not to run has arguably helped his campaign some. And Gingrich isn’t the last one in the race, yet, with respect to his Republican opponents, but he is probably well aware that he presently has little sway with the youth, the youth that greatly helped President Obama win during the last presidential election. So, can we blame him for trying to reach out to the youth through Twitter?

And frankly, it isn’t as if his account was just created days or even months before he decided to announce his candidacy. Gingrich has 2,466 tweets as of mid-May, and they all read pretty much like his May 11 candidacy announcement. They’re all kind of, well, boring. If he had completely changed his modus operandi, called truly undue attention to himself by using lines like, “hey dudes,” or “rUnNIng for PrEZ,” perhaps it would only be right to slam him for trying to seem other than he is — for being a poser.

But right now, he’s being Newt Gingrich. Gingrich with a past he can’t hide, Gingrich making incendiary claims on air, Gingrich with the political record. What he may be doing differently is that he’s using all the tools available to him, trying to garner as much publicity as possible. This can’t hurt him in the long run since he’s always only been just a funny name to the truly youthful.

Yvonne Bang is a fourth-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at bangy@uci.edu.