They couldn’t be more alike, Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich. And they couldn’t be more different.
Each has been described as larger than life. And no one would accuse either one of not having a healthy ego.
With Donald Trump reportedly considering, among others, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for vice president, the similarities between the two are considerable.
“It’s doubling down on the bluster,” quipped Republican strategist John Feehery, who said both men are high voltage personas with considerable self regard: “It’d be hard to contain all that personality in one ticket.”
Neither would be considered a disciplined campaigner: Trump has given the Republican Party fits by refusing to stick to a script and speaking his mind – even when it involves denigrating Mexican immigrants, women or his fellow Republicans.
Gingrich is not much more organized: his 2012 presidential bid collapsed amid a series of problems, including his failure to qualify for the primary ballot in Virginia, where he lives. And he has a tendency to “just say a lot of things that are going through that big brain of his,” Feehery said. “He’s also not someone who sticks to a script and that can be a little problematic when running for president.”
Among Gingrich’s less well-received ideas: having schoolchildren serve as janitors and building a colony on the moon: “I think grandiose thoughts,” Gingrich said at a 2012 presidential debate.
Both also have complicated personal lives. Between the two of them, they’ve had six wives, three apiece. Democrats would likely “have a field day” with their domestic lives, Feehery says. But where multiple marriages were once considered unacceptable in politics, it’s not been much of a political impediment for either.
Both have considerable egos, even for public figures. Trump once masqueraded as his own publicist to brag about himself to newspaper reporters, the Washington Post reported. Gingrich during his presidential campaign bragged that “because I am much like Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, I’m such an unconventional political figure that you really need to design a unique campaign that fits the way I operate.”
Both have also spent much of their careers in front of cameras and can show deftness in dealing with the news media. Trump has spent very little on his campaign, but reaps free exposure by being combative and unpredictable. Gingrich, who unabashedly admonished the moderator for asking about one of his marriages during a debate, won the South Carolina primary largely on the strength of his commanding debate performances, reviving his 2012 campaign.
But where Trump has spent most of his life in business, Gingrich has spent most of his life in politics and history and considers himself a thinker, said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia.
“Where Trump often seems to be making up his answers, Gingrich gives it a great deal of thought,” Bullock said. He suggested Gingrich could play a key role for the campaign: After Trump excites the crowd, Gingrich could talk to the press “and answer the serious questions,” he said.
Both men also see themselves as creating new Republican parties. Trump often boasts that his campaign is sparking a movement, and Gingrich was active in candidate training and recruitment designed to build a new Republican party, Bullock said.
“Trump sees himself as building a new Republican party, pushing aside traditional Republicans,” Bullock said. “Gingrich was doing the same kind of thing in the House.” Gingrich was elected to leadership in 1989, promising a brand of politics that was more activist, more outreach, more aggressive.’’
One of Gingrich’s chief draws for Trump is that congressional experience. Trump has no elected experience, but Gingrich was the political strategist who authored the “Contract with America,” a 10-point conservative legislative agenda that led Republicans to power in the House of Representatives in 1994 for the first time in four decades.
“If he’s looking for balance, there’s an extraordinary amount of experience there,” said Republican pollster David Winston, who has advised Gingrich over the years. “He was a major change agent.”