Gingrich … out on a limb

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a smart guy. Don’t take my word for it. He’ll all but so say so himself.

But the one-time Georgia Republican firebrand-turned-speaker isn’t a fortune teller. He has told that President Obama has a 20 percent chance of being re-elected in 2012. And, by golly, he might run for the GOP nomination against the president. Gingrich also suggests he could be the one to send Obama packing.

Hmmm. I will respond with two words: Ronald Reagan.

President Reagan was standing guard over an economy in 1982 that was in horrible condition. His poll numbers were in the tank. Joblessness rivaled today’s numbers; inflation was out of control. The mid-term elections that year ended up costing the Republicans many seats in the House and the Senate — a circumstance facing Democrats in the upcoming mid-terms this year.

Oh, what to do? Democrats licked their chops at their prospects in 1984 of retaking the White House. They nominated former Vice President Walter Mondale at their convention that year.

What happened next ought to serve as a cautionary tale for Gingrich and all the know-it-alls today.

Reagan not only won re-election in ’84, he came within about 4,000 votes of scoring a 50-state sweep over Mondale, who barely carried his home state of Minnesota.

It was “morning in America.”

Now … will history repeat itself in precisely that fashion in 2012? I’m not smart enough — unlike Newtie Gingrich — to make such a prediction. I will say, however, that it’s foolish to suggest today — more than two years from the next presidential election — how it will all turn out.

President Mondale surely would agree.