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Political Mercury

Dec 8, 2011
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Harkin: Obama camp ‘silently cheering’ for Gingrich

By Douglas Burns

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says Newt Gingrich’s rising fortunes in Republican presidential primary and caucus polling is lifting hopes in the White House as well.

“What I’m picking up around here is that there’s a lot of silent cheering in the Obama Administration and Obama campaign for Newt to get the nomination,” Harkin said. “They think this would just be Heaven-sent if he actually got the nomination.”

In a conference call with Cityview and other media, Harkin addressed several questions on the GOP presidential nominating battle, which increasingly appears to be shaping up as a two-person contest between Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House from Georgia, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

A Newsmax-Insider Advantage poll of GOP Iowa voters conducted on Nov. 28 showed Gingrich in the lead with 28 percent, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, at 13 percent, and Romney in third place at 12 percent.

In New Hampshire, Romney leads Gingrich 31 to 27 percent, according to Newsmax-Insider Advantage.

For his part, Harkin, who was elected to the U.S. House in 1974, worked with Gingrich, who was elected in 1978 to Congress.

“I can remember him being a bomb-thrower at that time, one of those people always lobbing things around,” Harkin said. “I thought at that time in his early career he was irresponsible.”

Harkin said he got to know Gingrich somewhat and described him as an “intriguing individual.”

“But I perhaps have never met a more undisciplined person in politics in my life,” Harkin said. “If you are going to run for president, you have to have discipline. Believe me, I speak from experience on that one.”

Harkin, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992, said Gingrich has a record of shooting from the hip with political rhetoric.

“Newt has never been one to engage mind before opening mouth,” Harkin said. “He engages mouth before engaging his mind most of the time. That doesn’t bode well for him at all.”

While not getting into specifics, Harkin said Gingrich would bring tremendous baggage to the 2012 general election for the White House.

“Someone once described the prospect of Newt getting the nomination as ‘imagine that you’re standing in front of a door and behind that door are all these suitcases piled up and you open the door and all the suitcases come tumbling out,’ ” Harkin said, adding that the metaphor perfectly fit Gingrich’s “baggage” problem.

Gingrich has been married three times and has admitted infidelity. Questions also have been raised about Gingrich’s paid, post-Congress advocacy for Freddie Mac and clients who had interests in seeing a greater use of electronic health records. What’s more, the Georgian has a decades-long trail of often-provocative public comments and writings.

On the other hand, Harkin said, Romney is running a cautious, plodding campaign, which can work in a general election but is perhaps not a winning strategy in a hotly contested caucus-and-primary battle in which conservative activists hold sway.

“Romney seems to be running sort of a general election campaign in a primary season,” Harkin said. “We’ll see if that works for him or not.” CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Newt Gingrich would bring tremendous baggage to the 2012 general election for the White House.

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.



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