Edited to include full text! Sorry, anyone who's reading, I didn't realize this was cross-posting this way.
I finally finished my time warp read of the week, Game Change, yesterday. Nothing was really new in the book -- I felt like I'd already read and read about all of its most titillating revelations -- but I did discover that I'd repressed more of the 2008 election than I thought. Remember, for instance, when John Edwards seemed viable instead of absolutely nuts?
What I'd really suppressed were the facts surrounding Edwards's exit from the race. He left in disgrace, of course. I remember that even his speaking role at the convention had been yanked by the time he finally understood what everyone else in America did: you can't be a serious candidate when your girlfriend is eight months pregnant, you're lying about it, you've tried to convince your staff to lie for you, and all of this is happening while your wife (who is more popular than you are) is dying of cancer.
I'd forgotten that Edwards was trying to cut a deal with Obama (and even Clinton) from Iowa onward. He finished second there but third in every other race that month, eventually suspending his campaign on January 30. He wanted to trade his endorsement, and ostensibly his followers, for a big role in the administration. First, he tried to get Obama to agree to bring him on, post-Iowa, as his VP. Then, post New Hampshire, he tried to get either camp to give him the Attorney General slot in exchange for bowing out and endorsing. He eventually settled for a speaking role at the convention and endorsed Obama in May, but even that was eventually reneged. Yet he was still hoping for a cabinet slot when he went on ABC and admitted to the affair -- but wouldn't admit to fathering Rielle Hunter's child -- two weeks before the convention.
That's a lot of ego, and probably a lot of delusion, as the authors have said.
It's interesting to have read this only the day before Jonathan Chait posted a piece about Newt Gingrich, another walking dead candidate, and the possibilities that await him. He argues that as long at Gingrich stays in the campaign, he's helping Romney by splitting the conservative vote and costing Santorum victories. That's gotta be worth something, right? Chait (via Sullivan):
What will he do? Put yourself in Newt Gingrich’s position. You want to be a Republican elder statesman respected for your ideas. You always want to make a lot of money in your influence-peddling business. You’re not going to win the nomination. Your main goal is to finish the race in such a way as to maximize your reputational capital and earning potential.
This is a fun game in a season that's already not so fun. What I'm interested in thinking about is whether Gingrich would try to cut an Edwards-style cabinet bargain. It doesn't seem plausible on the surface. Like Chait says, Gingrich likely wants to maximize his post-campaign earning potential and reputation in the party. After you've been Speaker of the House, there's really only one job that's a step up, reputation-wise, and Ginrich is out of the running for that. I can't imagine Romney wanting Gingrich as VP, nor can I imagine Gingrich's ego subsumed under Candidate Romney's.
The positions in the cabinet that might truly burnish a resume and turn a wheeler-dealer into a True Statesman are also the positions that Gingrich seems least likely to succeed in. Secretary of State Gingrich? Ugh. Foreign policy has never been the Speaker's strong suit (discussed nicely at The Atlantic last month), unless the moon counts as a foreign territory. Ditto SecDef.
Treasury Secretary has a nice ring to it, but it's been more of a business leader position in recent Republican cabinets (O'Neill, Snow, Paulson; Nicholas Brady, banker; Merrill Lynch CEO Donald Regan. The last political figure to hold the Treasury job was James Baker, under Reagan, and he took it on after a stint at Commerce). Besides, as I think has been conclusively proven in the last 3 years, you have to really want to be hated to take on Treasury right now.
What about the Edwards route -- AG? Ha. You have to love controversy, a lack of job security, and constantly being chosen as the scapegoat, if my memories of earlier administrations are correct. Most of the other departments aren't nearly as prestigious -- Health and Human Services? Please. Neither of those topics interest Gingrich. Commerce? Snooze-fest.
Education? Oddly, I think this is the closest fit for Gingrich, as he seems to like lecturing and did originally vote to found and fun the DOE. Still, I can't imagine he really wants to preside over a department that his GOP pals regularly threaten to disassemble.
So what's left? Gingrich hates the U.N. too much to be their ambassador, and it's hard to imagine him conducting diplomacy anywhere with success -- as long as it's a craft requiring subtlety. CIA? Haha, like if Romney won he'd have the balls to remove Petraeus. FBI? Same deal as AG, only harder. NSA? Too wonky, and too shady. You don't grab headlines by keeping secrets.
Here's my bet: Gingrich tells Romney, I'll stay in on two conditions. First, I want to chair your VP search committee. There's a wide gulf between having to be #2 and having #2 owe you big time. Second, I want a night of my own at the convention. One great speech there would payoff for Gingrich -- very literally -- on the speech circuit once this is all over.
Anyone else have an idea? What's a Gingrich campaign suspension (or agreement not to suspend) worth to Mitt Romney right now? What might it be worth later, in the highly unlikely event that the convention seems too close to call?