Newt Gingrich is back in play.
The former House speaker and former presidential candidate is one of the top picks to be Donald Trump’s running mate, according to two dozen smart people USA TODAY has consulted on politics throughout the election season.
We polled this group of political observers and activists each week prior to the Iowa caucuses to produce the USA TODAY GOP Power Rankings and went back to them this week to ask who is the best choice for Trump’s running mate.
“Gingrich would never be on anyone else’s shortlist for a number of reasons, but for Trump, he’s a perfect fit,” said Craig Robinson, editor of TheIowaRepublican.com. “If Trump has a weak spot, it’s that he has yet to lay out a comprehensive set of foreign and domestic policies. Gingrich has not only spent most of his career in the policy arena, but he also gives Trump a seasoned insider who knows how Washington works, yet he isn’t really considered to be an insider.”
Kansas Tea Party activist Deb Lucia agrees: “Newt provides a consistent pragmatic record of orchestrating across party lines, pushing reform (balanced budget, welfare) and cutting taxes while beefing up defense and intelligence — critical with the rise of radical Islamic terrorism.”
Gingrich was one of three names getting top billing. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker was the top vote-getter, after his very public visit to Trump Tower this week; Gingrich was second, and third was Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, just ahead of Ohio Gov. John Kasich. A dozen other names were mentioned, ranging from Sarah Palin to South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, but none got nearly the support of the top four.
Corker would be “a really inside pick but a powerful signal that he will pursue a more mainstream foreign policy,” said former RNC official Frank Donatelli. Emory Universityprofessor Andra Gillespie put Corker among a group of elected officials who would be good choices because Trump “will need a running mate who is better versed in politics and government generally.”
Ernst is an intriguing pick because she rose from obscurity with the help of an endorsement from Sarah Palin to score a surprising upset in 2014, beating both better-known Republican candidates and longtime Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley to take over the Senate seat of Democrat and liberal icon Tom Harkin.