Fred Thompson, Not McCain-Feingold, Actually Killed Newt’s Run

Newt Gingrich announced last week-end that he has decided not to run for President, but his reasoning seemed to puzzle a lot of people,

Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler said Saturday that Gingrich opted out of the race, a crowded one with nine candidates, after determining he could not legally explore a bid and stay as head of his tax-exempt political organization.

Besides the potential legal difficulties, Gingrich said running would have wasted the effort spent building up American Solutions for Winning the Future, the tax-exempt political arm of his lucrative empire as an author, pundit and consultant.

“To give up and kill an organization we spent a year on and that had 2,000 sites around the country where people had now invested their time and effort just to look at whether or not you could run, I thought would be irresponsible,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Just last week, Gingrich said he had set an Oct. 21 deadline to raise $30 million in pledges for a possible run, acknowledging that the task was difficult but not impossible.

He said Sunday that the deciding factor was learning he risked violating the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

“I thought there was a way that you could continue the momentum of those ideas while I began to prepare a presidential campaign,” Gingrich said. “What we learned yesterday morning was, I mean, it’s literally a go to jail, criminal activity.”

Many people heard that, scratched their heads and tried to figure out why Newt didn’t realize six months ago that he couldn’t, “legally explore a bid and stay as head of his tax-exempt political organization.”

Of course, he has known all along that this would be a problem. So, why has he really decided not to run?

Well, look at it from Newt’s perspective, when he originally chose to consider getting in the race. At that time, Fred Thompson was not being discussed as a candidate and McCain, Rudy, and Mitt were duking it out for the top slot.

Newt took a look at the trio at the top and figured, “Hey, none of these guys is a good fit for the conservative base. So, I can spend the next few months on the sidelines talking about how I may run for the Presidency, and it’ll spike my book sales and raise my profile. Then, if none of the 2nd tier candidates have caught on by the 4th quarter, conservatives will be begging me to get into the race so that they’ll have a candidate who represents their views.”

There turned out to be two problems with that theory, one big and one small.

The small one was that the race got started so early that Newt would have had an extremely difficult time getting into the race in the 4th quarter and raising enough money to be competitive. I call that a “small problem” because if Newt came to that conclusion as well, but still wanted to run for President, he would have gotten in the race a few months ago.

The big problem Newt had was named Fred Thompson. When it became apparent that Fred was going to get in, he quickly became the conservative alternative to Rudy McRomney. That made it extremely difficult for Newt Gingrich or any of the 2nd tier candidates to generate any momentum.

If Fred Thompson hadn’t gotten into the race and none of the 2nd tier candidates had caught on, it’s entirely possible that Newt could have been polling 2nd nationally for the last few months and that would have made, say a July or August entry into the race feasible for him.

But, post-Fred? Newt would have come into the race duking it out with Mike Huckabee for 5th place. There’s just no way that Newt could have gotten into the race this late in the game, raised enough money, and recovered enough ground at the polls to be competitive.

So, he begged off with a lame excuse and laughed all the way to the bank about the press coverage his non-run at the presidency has generated over the last few months.

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