COMMENTARY | If Newt Gingrich goes on to lose his fight for the Republican presidential nomination, he may look back at his decision to co-star in a 2006 global warming television ad with Nancy Pelosi as the moment that doomed his campaign.
Gingrich, who served as House Speaker from 1995-1999, fielded yet another question about the ad during a New Years Day campaign event at LJs Neighborhood Bar and Grill in Waterloo, Iowa. His answer was captured on video by C-Span.
"The question I was trying to reach was can conservatives be in the middle of an environmental debate and represent a conservative solution to the environment?" Gingrich responded. "Because I taught Environmental Studies. I think the environment does matter, and I think conservatives ought to be pro-environment in the broad sense that all of us want to have clean air and clean water. And we want to have national parks. And we want to have diversity of species."
"I don't think we should walk off and allow liberals to claim to be the only ones who care about the environment," he continued. "That was the reason I agreed to do the commercial."
"It was stupid because Nancy Pelosi became so radioactive, that the act of being on a couch with her was automatically…," he began to say, before being interrupted by laughter and a shout "Eww!" from the crowd.
"That's right. I rest my case," Gingrich agreed. "I have been very energetic and every once in a while I do something dumb, and I will concede that was dumb."
Unfortunately, Republican voters' natural response to watching the image of Gingrich seated next to Nancy Pelosi pop up over and over again on Fox News and YouTube could easily be mistaken as demand for a presidential candidate who does not believe in climate change.
In a Public Policy polling survey conducted in September, only 9 percent of voters said that they would more likely to support a candidate who does not believe in human-caused climate change. Even among Republicans, the number was only 16 percent.
What GOP voters are may be most turned off by is Gingrich's sudden change of direction on the issue.
"… we do agree our country must take action to address climate change," he said in the now famous 2006 commercial, which he and Pelosi recorded on behalf of Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection.
"Well, I don't think it should be a priority at all right now, except for research," he said of global warming on the Mark Levin Show in November.
If conservative voters who share Newt's concern for the environment can get over this obvious flip-flop, they might just notice he is among the few GOP presidential candidates talking seriously about bipartisan green energy solutions on the campaign trail. During a December interview with Glenn Beck, Gingrich mentioned carbon sequestration, nuclear power and "green coal" as "prudent" ways to reduce carbon emissions - all approaches supported by Republicans in the past. And at that same bar in Iowa on Sunday, Gingrich reminded his audience, "Remember, Iowa today ranks second only to Denmark in wind power."
As Iowa demonstrates, the clean energy revolution is here, and it's nothing for the GOP to fear.