The rise in Newt Gingrich’s poll numbers are lifting spirits in an unlikely place – the White House.
That’s the assessment of Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who recalls his House colleague as a “bomb thrower.”
“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 told reporters Dec. 1. “They think this would just be heaven-sent if he actually got the nomination.”
Ironically, that’s what a lot of Republicans thought about an Obama nomination four years ago.
Harkin, who served with Gingrich from 1979 to 1984, recalled the Georgia congressman as an “intriguing individual.” Beyond that, the Iowa Democrat had little complimentary to say about Gingrich, who served as House speaker after Harkin had moved to the Senate.
Back in the early days of Gingrich’s career, Harkin thought the Georgia Republican to be “irresponsible.”
And, Harkin continued, he’s not sure Gingrich has the temperament for the either a presidential campaign or the presidency.
“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,” he added, “I speak from experience on that one.”
Harkin was an early frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992 before dropping out in support of Bill Clinton.
Gingrich’s shoot-from-the-lip style “doesn’t bode well for him at all,” Harkin said.
“Newt has never been one to engage mind before opening mouth,” Harkin said. “He engages mouth before engaging his mind most of the time.”
The prospect of Obama running for re-election against Gingrich, who carries a lot of baggage, is encouraging for the president’s supporters, Harkin said. Gingrich has been married three times and has admitted extramarital affairs. More recently, questions have been raised about his advocacy – lobbying, some say – on behalf of clients including Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
‘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 about Gingrich’s baggage.
Candid Cain: Iowa Republican senator and media critic Chuck Grassley is withholding judgment on Herman Cain, but wishes reporters would pay more attention to policy matters rather than personal issues.
“This country is in such bad shape fiscally, economically, that we ought to be concentrating on getting the problems taken care of and we ought to be talking policy and not talking personal matters,” the state’s senior senator told reporters.
“I don’t know whether it’s a conspiracy or the attitude of journalists generally to dwell on less important things,” Grassley said about media fascination with allegations that Cain had a 13-year extramarital affair. He said the relationship was based on friendship and his attempt to offer his accuser financial help.
Regardless of the truth of the matter, Grassley isn’t sure Cain, who said he is reassessing his campaign, can recover. However, he added, Gingrich’s recovery from the personal problems that dogged him may be a model for Cain.
“It may not be exactly the same,” Grassley said. “Gingrich’s has been over a longer period of time and he’s spoken more openly about his problems, been more candid and seems to have convinced a large number of people that he is a different Gingrich from the standpoint of his personal life than he had been in the past. Herman hasn’t had the opportunity to do that yet.”
He’s not saying Cain hasn’t been candid “because he’s either been candid or he’s lying and I don’t know which it is,” Grassley said. “I don’t know enough about it to say I accept it. I don’t know if we will ever know the whole story.”
What he does know, Grassley said, is that “this country has a lot of problems and this election ought to be about solving these problems.”
On the calendar:
Rick Santorum, 2 p.m., town hall, Sidney Senior Center; 5:30 p.m., Mid-America Center, 1 Arena Way, Council Bluffs
Rick Santorum, 9:30 a.m., town hall, Stoney Creek Inn, Sioux City; 12:30 p.m., town hall, 4 Brother’s Restaurant, Le Mars; 5:30 p.m., Sanborn Winter Gala, Jay’s Restaurant & Lounge, Sanborn; 7:30 p.m., rally, Dordt College Campus Center, Sioux Center
Rick Santorum, town hall meeting, Lake Shore Cafe, Storm Lake; noon, town hall meeting Pizza Ranch, Spencer
Ron Paul, 1 p.m., employee meeting, Principal Financial Group, Des Moines; 4 p.m. , Boone Public Library; 7 p.m., Youth for Ron Paul, Great Hall, Iowa State Memorial Union, Ames
Ron Paul, 9 a.m., Webster City Fire Station; 1 p.m., Mason City High; 4 p.m., Waverly Public Library; 7 p.m., Youth for Ron Paul, University of Northern Iowa Maucker Union, Slife Ballroom, Cedar Falls
Ron Paul, 10 a.m., Fisher Community Center, Marshalltown
8 p.m., Des Moines Register/ABC News/Yahoo!/Republican Party of Iowa live presidential debate, Drake University
Fox News/ Republican Party of Iowa live presidential debate, Sioux City
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