12 people who defined the last 12 months of American politics
12 for ’12: The year in politics
BY STEVE KORNACKI
To close out 2012, I’ve looked back at each month and selected one individual who loomed large in the news and whose story tells us something significant about the year in politics. This is an admittedly imprecise exercise. Not all months are created equally. There are some months when multiple people could have been chosen; in other months, the pickings were slim. And in some cases, the names I’ve chosen offer a reminder that in political journalism, what seems vitally important one day can seem trivial the next. Anyway, on to the list:
January: Newt Gingrich
To anyone who’d just been teleported from the year 1999, the scene in Charleston, South Carolina on the night of January 21 had to be impossible to fathom: There was Newt Gingrich, the man who’d been marched off the political stage by his own party after a disastrous four-year run as House Speaker, declaring victory in a Republican presidential primary. And not just any primary: South Carolina, a historically pivotal early contest. And not just a victory – an absolute landslide.
Hell, you didn’t need to be a time traveler to be mystified. Gingrich had been out of elected politics for more than a decade when he launched his presidential campaign. Although “launched his presidential campaign” is a generous way of putting it; it was never clear if Gingrich was ever seriously interested in competing for the presidency – or if he just recognized the extraordinary marketing opportunities that came with being regarded by the media as a presidential candidate. From the middle of 2011 on, Gingrich had almost no staff, no money, and spent little time engaged in anything resembling traditional campaigning.