Gingrich Not Ready to Cede Spoiler Spot

As if it wasn’t hard enough for Republican presidential candidates – and potential candidates – seeking the right-wing mantle, two undeclared contenders may spar over who gets to be the dark horse.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose background makes him unlikely to gain widespread support, has spent months hinting that he may enter the race if no suitable candidates emerge, all the while attempting to build a kind of grassroots structure. He recently called the GOP’s crop of candidates a “pathetic” bunch of “pygmies.”

But the likelihood of a run by “Law & Order” star Fred Thompson, who also plans a late entry, has stolen much of Gingrich’s thunder. Thompson’s rising star “would appear to shade some of the sunlight” from Gingrich, as Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform put it.

Gingrich let it be known that he’s not impressed by Thompson. “I’m excited to see whether Fred turns out to be as decisive a front-runner as John McCain, or better,” he said, referring to the apparent collapse of McCain’s campaign recently.

In fact, Gingrich is still making preparations, according to an article in the Washington Times’ Insight Magazine (available to subscribers):

Those close to Gingrich said that he has concluded that all of the GOP candidates, including Fred Thompson who has not yet announced his bid, would fail to ignite Republican voters and drop way behind in any race against Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Gingrich plans to let Thompson announce his candidacy over the next six weeks and gauge reaction, particularly in the Southern states.

Indeed, with Thompson expected to announce his candidacy after Labor Day, Gingrich has apparently pushed back the possible date when he would launch his campaign from September to “mid-October.”

“If it becomes patently obvious, as the morning paper points out, that the Democrats have raised a hundred million more than the Republicans, and at some point people decide we are going to get Hillary unless there’s a radical change, then there’s space for a candidate,” Gingrich said.

If the reaction to Republican candidates remains tepid, Gingrich would be prepared to step in by November. If the GOP fails to embrace him, Gingrich would keep out of the race and set his goal for 2012.

“I’m perfectly happy to do what I do,” he said. “Whether that leads to the presidency is the country’s problem, not mine.”

Gingrich has been contemptuous of the current GOP presidential candidates, terming them “pathetic” and “pygmies.” He has not been impressed with Thompson, assessing that he would be portrayed as insincere and liberal.

“If, in mid-October, it’s quite clear that one or more of the current candidates is strong enough to be a serious alternative to a Clinton-Obama ticket, you don’t need me to run,” Gingrich said at a breakfast sponsored by The American Spectator.