Newt as the candidate of the right?

Update: WorldWideStandard has commentary on the content of the speech. Disclaimer: the author of the post used to work for John McCain.

Ralph Hallow wrote in today’s Washington Times about Newt Gringrich’s speech on the Freedom Cruise. Newt is clearly an ideas and big picture man. And his distance from the current administration has allowed him to get away with statements like this:

“I think if this regime [in Iran] is so dangerous that we can’t afford to let them have nuclear weapons, we need a strategy to replace the regime,” Mr. Gingrich said. “And the first place you start is where Ronald Reagan did in Eastern Europe with a comprehensive strategy that relied on economic, political, diplomatic, information and intelligence” means.”

I hear in this an implicit comparison with some of the comments from the administration — and John McCain — about keeping all options on the table. Hallow also points out that this is a change from his earlier position:

A nonviolent solution that allows the terrorists to become better trained, better organized, more numerous and better armed is a defeat. A nonviolent solution that leads to North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons threatening us across the planet is a defeat.

I have two comments about this. First, Newt knows that Republican voters are souring on the Iraq war, but not the war on terrorism or some idea of a large-scale, systematic struggle with radical Islamists. In other words, he is doing the Republican version of what Mark Warner did earlier in the week. For the GOP it is reframe to terrorism and Islam and for the Dems, it is retreat and defeat.

Second, he is raising his profile as a possible alternative to the current field. Hallow also said:

Mr. Gingrich said he has not yet decided whether to seek the presidency in 2008. But during several panel discussions open only to the Freedom Cruise audience — about 160 donors to conservative organizations — participants made clear their antipathy toward Mr. McCain, the Arizona senator who currently leads in polls of prospective Republican presidential candidates. …

The conservative group also showed considerable affection toward Mr. Gingrich and a clear disinclination so far to coalesce behind any one of the other top potential 2008 Republican contenders, such as Virginia Sen. George Allen, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

A number of people have suggested that there is still an opening in this race, especially with Allen’s Macaca problems. Newt could make a run for this, if his past doesn’t get the best of him.