Gregg could play serious role in 2012

Last modified: 1/3/2011 12:00:00 AM
Lest you think the Monitor simply concocted the "Judd Gregg for president" speculation on last Tuesday's front page amid the holiday-week news drought, consider this: The Judd Gregg for President Facebook page has been around since July 2009. It attracts both fans ("You go, Senator!") and foes ("You are an embarrassment to true Republicans.") and, predictably, some people who don't seem to know much about Gregg at all.

We haven't officially registered our admiration for the JGFP page (yet), but as longtime Gregg watchers, we'll just say this: Gregg for president? Seems far-fetched. Gregg for vice president? Well, that's another story.

Gregg's parsimonious ways are well-known in New Hampshire. He's been hectoring us about the national debt and deficit for 18 years. Before that, it was his bad luck to be elected governor just as the economy tanked; circumstances turned him into something of a Scrooge figure, laying off state workers and cutting the state budget.

But Gregg's particular brand of sober fiscal talk is new to a national audience. And, strangely, there seems to be a hunger for economic tough love these days, at least in some quarters. He may not have the back-slapping good humor or the theatrical pizzazz needed to run a successful presidential campaign, but imagine the gravitas he could add to any number of potential Republican tickets in 2012.

Picture, for instance, what a Newt Gingrich-Judd Gregg team might look like: a big-thinking, big-talking bomb-thrower and a quiet guy who sweats the details.

Or imagine the Tim Pawlenty-Gregg ticket. Who? Trust us, you'll know about Pawlenty soon enough.

Romney-Gregg? Two rich guys from New England? Probably not.

Bush-Gregg? Now that's one to consider. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, insists he's not running - but isn't that what they all say? And isn't it his turn? The Greggs and the Bushes go way back. Judd worked on the presidential campaigns of both father and son Bush presidents. Why not Judd and Jeb?

Santorum-Gregg? Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, is a social conservative of the first order. Gregg's fiscal focus could bring some balance to the Santorum message.

Bobby Jindal and Gregg? Mike Huckabee and Gregg?

The most entertaining daydream, of course: the Sarah Palin-Judd Gregg ticket. If she's seriously thinking about running for president, she'll surely need to convince voters that there's a deep-thinking player on her team. New Hampshire Republicans are already skeptical of Palin - after all, she's come courting only once, and that was more than two years ago! Gregg at her side could help to set things right.

President Obama once invited Gregg to join his administration as secretary of commerce - an episode so crazy in hindsight that it almost seems we imagined it.

By flirting with the Democrats and ultimately pulling back, Gregg put himself in a position to be an election-year truth-teller of sorts. He had an up-close view of Obama economic policy; his critique will hold weight in a campaign.

Gregg for vice president, we'll admit, isn't an idea unique to us. A pundit named Adam Brickley was writing about it months ago. "He would probably work best with Palin in my opinion - as he balances her on experience, geographics, and personality," Brickley wrote. "However, I could also see him being of use to Jindal and Huckabee were they to win the nomination, as he can expand the ticket's appeal beyond the South and talk very competently about banking issues."

Brickley is just one voice in the blogosphere, but consider his brief moment of fame in the last presidential contest: Months before John McCain picked Palin as his running mate, Brickley had founded the Draft Sarah Palin blog.

Gregg for Veep? Crazier things have happened.

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