As he weighs whether to wade into the Republican presidential waters, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has set up a series of workshops, including three in the Lowcountry, to encourage people to come up with ideas for solving the nation's problems.
These workshops, sponsored by American Solutions, a new bipartisan nonprofit that Gingrich chairs, are separate from a possible presidential bid, but they're unfolding around the same time.
The local workshops will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, while Gingrich said a supporter will begin probing the waters Monday to see if Gingrich could raise $30 million to launch a presidential bid in the next few weeks.
Gingrich said his work preparing for the workshops has not swayed him for or against running, but he said it has confirmed that Americans are tired of political gridlock and want workable solutions.
Gingrich said when he was interviewed on TV about Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care proposal, he was asked what was wrong with it. He suggested there should be more conversation, not conflict. "Out of 10 pages, she has a couple of pages that are pretty darned good," he said.
Health care is expected to be one topic that will arise at Saturday's workshops, and Gingrich said other topics will include immigration and border security, rediscovering God in America, Social Security reform and improving education.
Despite his talk of a possible presidential bid, some observers, such as College of Charleston political science professor Bill Moore, said it's too late.
"At this particular stage, to try to create an organization and to try to raise money, it's really next to impossible," Moore said.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is backing Gingrich's efforts with American Solutions, calling him "one of the best conservative thinkers in our time."
DeMint, who supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president, said Wednesday he doesn't expect Gingrich to run "unless the whole field of Republicans just collapses."
Gingrich said South Carolina's primary will play a significant role, but any campaign of his would focus less on fundraising and more on ideas.
"I just think, as a practical person, having a two-year race to get a job that doesn't get sworn in until January 2009 is a fairly weird way to live your life. These people all get tired, and they all shrink a little bit. They're so busy begging for money... how can they think about leadership? How can they think about what they'll do if they run? I think it's a very debilitating process that we have to rethink in a number of ways."