Newt Gingrich warns Republicans that Joe Biden is winning the fight

Former speaker who led charge against Bill Clinton raises eyebrows with column heralding Democrat’s first-term success

Republicans must “quit underestimating” Joe Biden, the former US House speaker Newt Gingrich said, because the president is winning the fight.

Writing on his own website, Gingrich said: “Conservatives’ hostility to the Biden administration on our terms tends to blind us to just how effective Biden has been on his terms.

“… We dislike Biden so much, we pettily focus on his speaking difficulties, sometimes strange behavior, clear lapses of memory and other personal flaws. Our aversion to him and his policies makes us underestimate him and the Democrats.”

Gingrich’s words pleased the White House – Ron Klain, Joe Biden’s chief of staff, tweeted a link with the message: “You don’t have to take my word for it, any more.”

The column also caused consternation among Washington commentators, in part because, as Axios put it, “a leader of the GOP’s ’90s-era New Right [is] arguing that Joe Biden is not just a winner – but a role model”.

Gingrich has been a fierce partisan warrior ever since he entered Congress, in 1979, then as speaker led the charge against Bill Clinton, culminating in a failed attempt to remove the Democrat via impeachment. In the conclusion to his column, he used the term “Defeat Big Government Socialism” – a version of the title of his latest book.

Gingrich told Axios: “I was thinking about football and the clarity of winning and losing. It hit me that, measured by his goals, Biden has been much more successful than we have been willing to credit.”

Biden recently turned 80. He has said he will use the Christmas holiday to decide if he will run for re-election.

Gingrich, 79, compared Biden to Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, the latter previously the oldest president ever in office, having been 77 when he left the White House in 1989.

Reagan and Eisenhower, Gingrich said, “preferred to be underestimated” and “wanted people to think of them as pleasant – but not dangerous”, and thereby enjoyed great success.

“Biden has achieved something similar,” Gingrich continued, by taking “an amazingly narrow four-vote majority in the US House and a 50-50 tie in the Senate and turn[ing] it into trillions of dollars in spending – and a series of radical bills”.

Gingrich also accused Biden of pursuing “a strategy of polarizing Americans against Donald Trump supporters” – more than 950 of whom have been charged over the deadly Capitol riot they staged after the former president’s defeat in 2020 – and “grossly exaggerat[ing] the threat to abortion rights”, after the supreme court removed the right this year.

But Gingrich also gave Biden credit on the chief foreign policy challenge of his first term in power. The president, the former speaker said, had “carefully and cautiously waged war in Ukraine with no American troops … US weapons and financial aid [helping] cripple what most thought would be an easy victory for Russian president Vladimir Putin”.

The result, Gingrich said, was that last month “the Biden team had one of the best first-term off-year elections in history. They were not repudiated.”

Gingrich advised Republicans “to look much more deeply at what worked and what did not work in 2020 and 2022”, as they prepare to face “almost inevitable second-time Democrat presidential nominee Biden”.

According to Axios, Biden is thought likely to run. Friends of the first couple, the site said, “think only two things could stop him: health or Jill”, the first lady.


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

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