Could Bill Clinton's enemy be the new Comeback Kid?

Guy Adams explains why Newt Gingrich believes he can become the next president
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The Independent US

Ever wondered what a political time warp looks like? Try tuning into Fox News tonight, when 67-year-old Newt Gingrich will settle his considerable frame into a leather armchair opposite Sean Hannity and formally announce his intention to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

The man who spent much of the 1990s as Speaker of the House has promised the roughly 1.5 million followers of his Twitter and Facebook feeds that he intends to "talk about my run" with Hannity, one of the best-watched members of Fox's stable of male, middle-aged, conservative anchormen.

Mr Gingrich's candidacy is already sparking memories of a bygone era, when with a young Bill Clinton in the White House and fire in his belly, the Congressman from Georgia led a dramatic Republican resurgence. In 1994, his carefully wrought brand of compassionate conservatism gave the party a solid majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

The planned comeback may also remind voters of how Mr Gingrich's career spectacularly flamed out in the late 1990s, amid voter anger over his decision to force a government shutdown during a budget battle, along with countless ethics complaints regarding the opaque manner in which he financed his campaigns.

And let us not forget the brouhaha over 1999's revelation that, while his party was self-righteously attempting to impeach Mr Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, Mr Gingrich had for years been cheating on his second wife with a young blonde staffer. Yet for all the baggage, and the self-evident greyness, Mr Gingrich will add an intriguing dimension to a 2012 race that has so far failed to produce any clear GOP favourites. In a media cycle so far dominated by the blowhard antics of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, he becomes the first true heavyweight to formally enter the running.

Mr Gingrich is currently third or fourth in the Republican polls, behind Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, the former governors of Massachusetts and Arkansas (who are still toying with bids). And with eight months to go until primary season kicks off in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr Gingrich has one very important advantage over both key rivals: a large pile of money.

Since leaving political office in 1999, Mr Gingrich has devoted himself to making policy, creating a string of think-tanks, writing books and founding a political film-production company. These organisations now provide, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, a "publicity and policy machine without parallel" together with a war chest of $32m (£19.5m) – more than all his rivals combined.

To supporters, who he doggedly courts via stump speeches, media appearances and a sweep through 30 states in the past year, Mr Gingrich is an intellectual sage who can make the case for smaller government with gravitas and perhaps tap the zeitgeist with a modern version of the "contract with America" used with devastating effect in 1994.

In policy pronouncements intended to strike a chord with Republican primary voters, Mr Gingrich has recently called for restrictions on abortion and more offshore oil drilling. Audiences have also heard him speak against gay marriage.

Those positions play directly to right-wing fears that Barack Obama is attempting to turn America into a sort of socialist utopia. "If we weren't in a period like this, facing incredible dangers across the board, I wouldn't make much sense as a candidate," Mr Gingrich said in a recent interview. "But we are in such a period."

Yet after almost 13 years out of office, the comeback faces hurdles. Prominent among them is Mr Gingrich's advancing years. "He's just been around the track one too many times," Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to George W Bush, said recently. "At a time when people are hungry for something different, new and refreshing, Newt just feels stale."

Mr Gingrich has also campaigned with Al Gore on climate change (a phenomenon many Republicans believe is a leftist myth). And to the bemusement of a party prone to using immigrants as a punching bag, he has taken steps to reach out to the Latino community, taking Spanish classes.

Then there's the small matter of The Newt's private life. For all the efforts to legislate against gays and lesbians, Mr Gingrich is hardly a paragon of virtue. He left his cancer-ridden first wife Jackie (his former school geometry teacher) for a younger model in 1980. Second wife Marianne was cast aside in 1999 when news broke of his long-running extra-marital fling with Callista Bisek, a willowy blonde more than 20 years his junior.

He has since converted to Catholicism and worked tirelessly to woo the religious right, begging forgiveness for past sins and telling one recent audience that he had only cheated on Marianne because "love of country" made him spend too long in Washington.

How that excuse sits with the Tea Party faithful remains to be seen. Perhaps Marianne offers the most revealing sense of perspective. "He believes that what he says in public and how he lives don't have to be connected," she recently told Esquire. "If you believe that, then yeah, you can run for president."

Schwarzenegger and Shriver split after 25 years

It was a storybook marriage on a spring weekend on Cape Cod in 1986 that united a princess of the Kennedy political dynasty, Maria Shriver, and the gap-toothed muscle-clad movie star famous enough to be known by one name, Arnold.

But the former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ms Shriver announced their separation late on Monday, cleaving a sometimes-turbulent 25-year relationship after "a time of great personal and professional transition for each of us", the couple said in a joint statement.

The break-up comes some four months after Mr Schwarzenegger ended a bumpy, two-term run as California's governor, a job his wife never wanted him to pursue. Since then, Mr Schwarzenegger, 63, has been fashioning a role as an international advocate for green energy, giving speeches and lining up work in Hollywood. Ms Shriver, 55, has guest-edited an edition of Oprah Winfrey's magazine but also talked about the stress of changing roles after serving as California's first lady.

The joint statement, issued by a spokesman for Mr Schwarzenegger, said the two were working on the future of their relationship while living apart and they would continue to parent their four children together. AP