Gingrich's brand damage 

Matt Lewis is on to something in exploring the damage Newt Gingrich has done to his brand, but I'd approach the issue slightly differently. To me, beyond the immediate political effects, Gingrich's comments on Rep. Paul Ryan's budget tarnish his image as a conservative who is advancing bold solutions to our nation's problems.

For decades, Gingrich has built his name on being the idea man for Republicans. He has repeatedly emphasized over the years that the challenges facing the nation are so great that we need to move beyond the stale old political debates and talk about fundamental chaanges that need to be made.

As Alana Goodman noted, back in 1992, Gingrich urged college students to push for "radical" changes. During his tenure as Speaker, he pushed for restraining the growth rate of Medicare. And in his entire post- House Speakership brand has been built around this idea of needing to do the big stuff. He has fostered this image through organizations such as "American Solutions" and the "Center for Health Transformation"  as well as book titles such as "Winning the Future" (ironic now) and "Real Change."

And when Republicans lost power after 2006, his message to the GOP was to be bolder. In January 2007, Gingrich invoked an old Ronald Reagan quote and declared,  "If I could name the theme for the 2008 elections it would be this: Bold solutions based on bold colors."

So what's so odd about Gingrich's comments on Sunday is that Ryan's budget is doing exactly what Gingrich has been arguing Republicans have needed to do for years. The budget represents a serious proposal to confront our most pressing national problem, and whether or not it ultimately succeeds, the plan has already helped move us away from the kind of stale old political debates Gingrich has decried and has forced a discussion about our real challenges.

Yet not only did Gingrich say he had policy differences with Ryan, but his statement actually went after the, I dare say, boldness of Ryan's proposals, declaring “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” and “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

Whatever his reasoning was behind making the remarks, Gingrich undercut the one true asset that his longshot candidacy brought -- his reputation as the Republican for big ideas.

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Philip Klein

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