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The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK (
TheStreet) -- GOP presidential candidate
is enjoying a sudden surge in the polls. Although some professional politicos in Washington once thought that Gingrich's time had come and gone, he's successfully navigated enough debates -- and seen enough of his opponents fall on their swords -- that many pundits are now calling the Republican primary a two-man race between Gingrich and former favorite
, with Gingrich favored to win.
Perhaps it's unfair to liken Gingrich to his near-namesake, Dr. Seuss' Grinch -- only one of them is green, after all. But whoever wins the Republican nomination will have to beat President Obama in November and, oddly enough, Gingrich may suffer from the many traits he and Obama have in common.
Both are bright, cerebral, articulate, more centrist than many in their respective parties, and prone to making sophisticated arguments that win the hearts of policy wonks while crossing the eyes of voters. If he wants to improve his odds of winning the general election, Gingrich might be smart to take a cue from the Grinch, who famously stole Christmas from the Whos, and steal a few platforms (and campaign techniques) from some of his current and former rivals:
Herman Cain's 9-9-9 Plan. No matter which side of the aisle you're on, it seems clear that some kind of tax reform will be essential to reducing the nation's looming deficit. Cain's 9-9-9 tax reform plan had the virtue of simplicity; it was relatively easy to understand and seemed to appeal to voters who are fed up with complicated tax proposals from would-be presidents. Critics argued that it wasn't workable, but Gingrich would probably be wise to learn from Cain's success -- were it not for his personal scandals, Cain might well still be leading the Republican field -- and develop a tax reform proposal that voters can actually understand.
Mitt Romney's Pro-Business Posture. While Romney hasn't been entirely successful in selling himself to Republican voters -- a recent Time magazine cover story about Romney queried, "Why Don't They Like Me?" -- he has been able to portray himself as strongly and consistently pro-business. Particularly since the Supreme Court voted to allow corporations full rights to purchase political advertising, the support of the business community could be critical to the next president's election. Gingrich, however, has tended to step away from his past business connections -- for example, the "consulting" work he did for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Instead of keeping corporate America at arm's length, Gingrich might be better off to develop and present a platform on how he'll work with big business to restore the nation's economy.
Michele Bachmann's Social Conservatism. If Gingrich is to win the White House, he'll need to win over socially conservative voters who care about issues like abortion, prayer in the schools, and a candidate's personal commitment to marriage and family. Unfortunately for Gingrich, his own record is spotty at best. He's been married three times and his current wife was reportedly his mistress during his second marriage. (It won't help Gingrich that the Obamas show every sign of having a happy and enduring marriage, either.) Voters who consider marital infidelity to be proof of a flawed character may not be eager to vote for a candidate with Gingrich's personal history. However, if Gingrich adopts some of Michele Bachmann's social conservatism, giving a nod to her opposition to abortion and gay marriage, it might persuade socially conservative voters to swallow their misgivings and come out to vote against Obama.
Rick Perry's Personal Populism. If there's one rallying cry in the coming election, it may well be "throw the bums out!" Voters across the political spectrum seem frustrated with career politicians, and nothing describes Gingrich better. From the top of his silvered, TV-anchor hair to the tips of his polished wingtips, Gingrich is the image of a sleek Washington insider, hardly a candidate who's likely to appeal to voters who are struggling to make ends meet. Of the Republican field, perhaps no one projects "good ole boy" charm better than Rick Perry (his gaffes in the debates notwithstanding). Gingrich would probably look downright silly in cowboy boots, but he might be wise to borrow a little of Perry's down-home style.
Of course, winning an election is one thing, and being a good president is quite another. The tricks and techniques that win elections can be savagely divisive, leaving scars that linger long after the last votes are counted.
Much will undoubtedly happen between now and next November, and no one can reliably predict who'll win the White House. But if Gingrich wins and is genuinely interested in doing right by the American people, his best bet would probably be to borrow not from any of his Republican rivals, but from the Grinch himself.
According to Dr. Seuss, the Grinch's undersized heart grew three sizes when he realized that Christmas was not about toys and goodies, but about people caring for one another. Whichever candidate wins in November, it will be essential for him (or her) to realize that Americans are all in this together, and to press a policy agenda that fairly balances the interests of all of the varied segments of American society.
That might not be smart politics, but it would certainly be good leadership.