- Newt Gingrich is helping House Republicans shape their 2022 re-election strategy.
- Conjuring another “Contract with America”-style manifesto is on the wish list.
- Popping off ideas has been Gingrich’s bread and butter for 50-plus years.
Republicans who want to win big in 2022 are soliciting advice from a veteran culture warrior who led the GOP “revolution” that swept them back into power three decades ago. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who has never been shy about sharing ideas — is happy to help.
In 1994 Gingrich delivered a House majority for the GOP for the first time in 40 years. Today, Gingrich tells Insider that “the total failure of the left is driving people our way in a very encouraging way.” And if that shift continues, he predicted 2022 could be “the most catastrophic election for Democrats since 1920” when Republicans secured their largest number of seats, ever.
Republicans now have a two-part obligation as they battle to regain control, he said.
“One is to communicate that big government socialism doesn’t work and can’t,” he said. “And the other is to communicate what we would do, which … will be positive and solve problems.”
Gingrich, who co-authored the symbolic “Contract with America” conservatives rallied around during the Clinton era, has been advising House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California as Republicans craft a midterm re-election strategy. The two have been friends for years and McCarthy’s current chief of staff in his leadership office, Dan Meyer, served in the same role for Gingrich when he was the speaker.
Gingrich has a controversial history. Even scandal-plagued Donald Trump reportedly rejected him for his 2016 ticket because of red flags raised during the vetting process. He’s been in the spotlight more recently for suggesting that members of the committee investigating the deadly US Capitol siege are acting like a “lynch mob” and are at risk of jail if Republicans retake the majority. The comment came about two weeks after his former longtime aide, Ross Worthington, was subpoenaed.
But conferring with the architect of conservatives’ takeover of Congress in 1994 about reclaiming the reins this fall is a no-brainer for McCarthy, a chorus of Republicans told Insider.
“McCarthy is trying to create a wave and elect 30 to 35 new Republicans,” Scott Reed, a veteran GOP strategist who previously worked for the US Chamber of Commerce, said of the final obstacle to fulfilling the California Republican’s lifelong dream of becoming speaker.
And that’s where Gingrich can help. Reed said the 10-term former lawmaker and 2012 presidential hopeful remains in constant contact with “people from CEO-level down to party activists.”
The ‘grandfather of House Republicans’
Former Gingrich spokesman who is now McCarthy’s advisor Mike Shields said his former boss gladly counsels anyone who will listen.
“There’s times when he’ll send a note to five members of the House and Senate leadership with an idea that he has, or something that he thinks they should focus on,” Shields told Insider. “And it’s received well because this is … the grandfather of House Republicans that’s offering up his wisdom.”
Gingrich said he believes it’s important to not only court Republicans but also attract “non-socialist Democrats and independents because we think it’s very important to build a bipartisan, long-term understanding of what America needs to succeed.”
Gingrich, who is writing a book on “defeating big government socialism,” said part of his advice is to focus on cherry-picking ideas from around the country. He suggested folding in winning proposals from successful Republican governors — he praised Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts for keeping the unemployment rate below 2%, Arizona’s Doug Ducey for letting parents use government aid for private schools if public schools close, and Florida’s Ron DeSantis for being “aggressive” with “positive ideas” — into the evolving midterm strategy.
“I think Republicans have a huge opportunity to … take five or 10 things that governors around the country are doing right and apply it to building a platform for Washington,” Gingrich said.
Several GOP strategists said adopting base-pleasing positions Republican governors have taken on polarizing issues such as banning critical race theory, rejecting pandemic-related mask mandates, and enacting voting restrictions ahead of the next election would be a good place to start.
Gingrich said that the country is “waking up” and cited Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s winning campaign last year when parental involvement in schools became a major issue for the state’s voters.
“In Virginia people looked up and said, ‘What do you mean parents can’t be involved in schools?'” he said. “Well, the minute you have parents involved in schools, you’re not going to have the nuttier left-wing activities.”
Contract with America collaborator Grover Norquist said any pending rewrite should clobber President Joe Biden with “10 issues that he would choke on and have trouble opposing because he knows they’re popular.” Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, did not, however, outline what those 10 overwhelming issues might be.
But Gingrich said it’s too early to define any new contract-type framework “because the world keeps changing.” No one could have imagined a year ago “that the supply chain combined with inflation would be as big a mess as it is,” he said of two issues Republicans plan to weaponize against Democrats in the midterms.
September is his preferred timeline for a big re-election rollout but he said discussions should happen now. “It’s good to have an idea-oriented party — particularly if your ideas are a lot more popular than the other guy,” he said.
McCarthy’s office did not respond to requests for comment about Gingrich’s role in modern policymaking or whether other former GOP speakers had been invited to weigh in. While former House Speaker Paul Ryan has largely retreated into private life, his predecessor John Boehner weighed in publicly on the state of the Republican Party last year after his memoir was published. He also spoke at an exclusive GOP donor retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, in October.
Jim Moran, a former Democratic House member who is now a senior policy advisor at the law firm Nelson Mullins, said House Republicans ought to be careful what they wish for.
“My guess is that Newt’s 21st-century contract is going to over-promise things that they can’t deliver. And some things that the American people aren’t going to want them to deliver,” he said, adding that “It’s mostly going to be reactionary.”
A spectacular rise to power and stunning fall from grace
Gingrich won his first congressional race in 1978, proving that the third time was in fact the charm after falling short at the ballot box in 1974 and 1976.
After learning the ways of Washington, the former history professor penned the career-defining “Contract with America” — a political sales pitch that helped sweep Republicans back into power after 40 years of Democratic rule, and provided the clout he needed to claim the speaker’s gavel.
The symbolic agreement featured 10 bills House Republicans pledged to put up for a vote in the 104th Congress if the general public returned them to power. The priorities included myriad tax cuts, cracking down on crime, slashing welfare programs, and imposing congressional term limits, among others.
His spectacular rise to power was matched only by Gingrich’s equally stunning fall from grace. In 1997 House members overwhelmingly voted to reprimand Gingrich — making him the first speaker panned for unethical behavior — for flouting federal tax laws and misleading congressional investigators about it. The disgraced leader, who admitted to the ethical lapse as part of a deal to quash inquiries into other suspect activities, also had to pay a historic $300,000 penalty.
Following a surprise loss of seats in the 1998 midterm election, Gingrich stepped down as speaker that November. He resigned from Congress in January 1999 and hasn’t held elected office anywhere since.
But that hasn’t stopped him from striving to reshape the entire world.
Since decamping from DC, Gingrich has written dozens of political books, spawned media companies that produce weekly newsletters and podcasts, crossed the aisle to cut a 2008 ad — infamously set on a loveseat outside the Capitol — about confronting climate change alongside Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and became a booster of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Lending House Republican leaders an ear is just one way Gingrich has attempted to shake things up in the new year.
The consummate self-promoter has had a busy January with opinions galore, including podcasting about everything from increased border crossings in Arizona to the Russia-China tug-of-war over Kazakhstan; lambasting Democrats for “clumsily rehashing the events of Jan. 6” ahead of the anniversary of the attack on the US Capitol, and playing armchair pollster.
He assailed January 6 investigators for allegedly breaking laws and seeking political retribution against their enemies — but urged Republicans to punish Democrats next year. He told Insider that Republicans should invent a new committee “for people who are so despicable that they should not have any legislative jurisdiction.”
And that’s on top of gleefully bashing Biden on any network that will have him.
“If you watch Fox, he’s on two nights a week,” Republican strategist Reed said of the omnipresent talking head, adding, “Gingrich really hadn’t gone away.”
Former Gingrich aide Shields said House and Senate Republican leaders have called in Gingrich to rally the troops “countless times over the last 20 years.”
Rep. Ronny Jackson, a Republican of Texas who was the White House physician to Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, said he experienced one such appearance in late 2021 when Gingrich addressed a Republican Study Committee meeting.
“You want to learn from other people’s mistakes, whether they’re on the right or the left. He probably has a lot to offer in that regard,” Jackson told Insider on January 24 at the Ritz-Carlton in Key Biscayne, Florida, where Republicans had just wrapped up a retreat.
Gingrich embraces every opportunity to get his messages out.
“Nothing I do is secret,” Gingrich said, pointing to the armada of trial balloons he’s launching at any given time. “Ninety-eight percent of my help is stuff you can pick up if you look at the podcast. And the newsletters. And I tweet,” Gingrich said.
“I send signals lots of ways.”
Rep. Carlos Gimenez is a freshman Republican of Florida who is working on one of the task forces McCarthy put together to brainstorm 2022 priorities. He told Insider, following a press conference at Camp Matecumbe in Miami, that the groups are still in the information-gathering phase. He likened the end goal to drafting a new “10 commandments” for House Republicans.
“It sounds very similar to the Contract with America, right?” he said.