Newt Gingrich is the accidental candidate: He went on a book tour and a presidential campaign broke out.
The truth is, Gingrich’s entire career – political and otherwise – has been a comercial enterprise, currently managed by wife #3 Callista, the Yoko Ono of the GOP.
It’s what Newt Gingrich does. So why should he change now, just because he’s running for the highest office in the land?
Well, because the New York Times says so:
Even as he widens his lead in the polls, Newt Gingrich spends substantial time on an activity that raised questions about his ultimate motive when he was a back-of-the-pack candidate: selling and signing $25 copies of his books . . .
Mr. Gingrich’s devotion to book-selling, Republican strategists said, raises questions about the propriety of a candidate who is generating personal income while seeking the White House, as well as whether he is making the optimum use of limited campaign time.
Not that other GOP presidential hopefuls are bookselling virgins, as the Times notes in passing:
Nearly every Republican candidate this year has a book out, and at least two besides Mr. Gingrich — Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann — made book-store appearances part of wooing voters.
Thankfully, the Wall Street Journal provides a wider perspective:
Candidates have traditionally written books to present their ideas and life stories to the voting public, but never have commercialism and campaigning been quite so intertwined. Rep. Michele Bachmann promotes her new autobiography, “Core of Conviction,” on the homepage of her campaign website. Former candidate Herman Cain’s life story made best-seller lists in October. Rep. Ron Paul also has product on the market: The newest edition of the “Ron Paul Family Cookbook,” which promises to “warm your kitchen and your heart,'” is arriving just in time for the holidays.
And the Journal makes the campaign-finance highwire act even clearer:
It’s unclear to what extent the campaigns, many of them scraping for donations, may be benefiting from travel and logistical assistance from their publishers—aid that would fall into a still-evolving area of campaign finance law.
“It does seem like each cycle the candidates try to push the envelope a little more,” said Ken Gross, a former Federal Election Commission official who advises candidates and publishers on the rules. “In the good old days, you wrote your book before you ran. Now, they’re so entwined with the campaign, it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish.”
And here’s the boffo Politico wrapup on the bookworming.
Book ’em, Danno.