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Gingrich Hints Growing Louder

3:51 PM, May 14, 2007 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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Newt Gingrich is letting it be known that he will probably get into the Republican presidential race:

Newt Gingrich, the controversial former speaker of the House of Representatives, on Monday said there was a "great possibility" he would enter the Republican presidential field later this year and dismissed the 10 existing contenders as an "American pop idol" line-up.

Mr Gingrich also said the early and unusually intense 2008 presidential cycle was less likely to produce a good national candidate. "We are now in this virtually irrational process," Mr Gingrich told ABC in an interview on Monday. "It becomes more and more partisan, more and more narrow. It's exactly the wrong way of choosing a national leader."

Count Gingrich as one potential beneficiary of the Fred Thompson boomlet. Many commentators argued that the GOP field was missing a strong, traditional conservative. Mr. Thompson's flirtation with a bid has shown that there are plenty of primary voters who will back an alternative to the 'Top 3.' Perhaps Bob Novak's recent warning that a Thompson run is no sure thing has led Gingrich to think that he can be 'the guy.' Polls show him tied with Mitt Romney--not too bad for a candidate who isn't even running. Nevertheless, we will apparently have to wait until Fall to get a straight answer from Gingrich.

And by then there may well be fewer GOP presidential aspirants. There's also good chance that we'll know whether Rudy Giuliani has been able to get past concerns over his views on social issues, and we will certainly know whether Fred Thompson intends to run.

And if you still don't have enough Republican options for president, Chuck Hagel might give you one more. Based on his comments yesterday, it seems like he's still looking for a critique of his party that tests well, since those critiques still show no consistency:

At times Hagel sounded like he was simultaneously prepping for an independent bid and explaining why he was leaving the Republican Party.

Take this passage: "I've been a Republican all my life ... I am not happy with the Republican Party today. It has drifted from the party of Eisenhower, of Goldwater, of Reagan, the party I joined. It isn't the same party. It's not."

He didn't stop there. Hagel went on to say that the GOP has been "hijacked by a group of single-minded, almost isolationist insulationists, power-projectors..."

To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, either 'isolationist' or 'power projecting' does not mean what Hagel thinks it means. It's pretty hard to maintain a real isolationist foreign policy while irresponsibly projecting power--unless maybe Hagel means flower power.

This isn't the first time Hagel has made an important statement about his presidential plans seemingly without editing his remarks first. Perhaps he wants to be a straight talker in the mold of Yogi Berra.

In either case, most Republicans will probably welcome an independent presidential bid by Chuck Hagel. If the election is indeed largely about Iraq, the Republican nominee is likely to be helped by a third-party candidate who splits the anti-war vote.