Newt Gingrich Releases New ‘Contract With America,’ Must Still Think It’s 1994

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Gingrich at last week's debate. Photo: Getty Images

Newt Gingrich hasn't exactly been on anyone's radar this election season. The few comments he has earned have been for berating debate moderators who've dared to point out differences between the Republican candidates, which is their job after all and only serves to make Gingrich come off as the grumpy grandpa in the room. But after Perry's faltering performance at last week's debate and poor showing in the weekend's straw polls, Gingrich has been riding a small wave, seeing his support go from 3 to 11 percent in the latest Fox News poll. Maybe his campaign — or what's left of it — decided now was the time to make their big break. Which is why Gingrich, who's been fostering his image as the Republican Party's "big ideas" man, went to Des Moines today to unveil his "21st Century Contract With America," paying homage to the document that helped him win the speakership in 1994.

But unlike the first Contract, which was deliberately succinct and low on the rhetoric, this 26-page document reads more like a campaign manifesto, full of jabs at Obamacare and Reagan glorification. When you get down to the specifics it's mostly standard Republican talking points: the repeal of Dodd-Frank, health savings accounts, lowering the corporate tax rate (to 12.5 percent), establishing English as the official language, letting younger people partially opt out of Social Security. (The one interesting idea is giving people the choice of an optional flat tax instead of the current byzantine system.) All that aside, it is the first time any of the candidates have enumerated and detailed exactly what a Republican president inaugurated in January 2013 will have to accomplish — something Gingrich told the Des Moines Register would take him, oh, a full two terms to accomplish.

Except the smart money still says it won't be Gingrich who will be implementing the policies he put forward today. Even his latest jump in the polls will likely abate — figures Gallup has been compiling since February show that Gingrich's ballot support has peaked to 10 percent twice before, in mid-March and mid-May, before promptly dropping right back to the 5 percent mark, where he has been more or a less a permanent resident. Chances are Gingrich knows this, too, which is why he's made an opening gambit with the "21st Century Contract With America" (full text available here), hoping to, at the very least, define the field of policy options on which the true GOP contenders will ultimately compete.

Gingrich proposes updated Contract with America [Reuters]
Newt Gingrich releases '21st Century Contract with America' [Des Moines Register]
Cain and Gingrich Benefit from Perry Swoon [Fox News]