Jeremy Hobson: Republican candidates will meet tonight for a debate in Iowa. And according to the polls, the front-runner right now is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Historian Steve Gillon is author of "The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and the Rivalry that Defined a Generation," and he joins us now to talk about "Newt-onomics," if you will. Steve Gillon, good morning.
Steve Gillon: Good morning.
Hobson: What would be the biggest economic change, do you think, under President Gingrich -- if it comes to that -- given what we know about him?
Gillon: I think a lot of it depends on whether or not he has to deal with a Democratic Congress. Gingrich has shown when he was speaker, especially in the final phase of his speakership, that he is willing to reach across the aisle and form bipartisan relationships.
There are two Newt Gingriches: Gingrich has always made a distinction between politics and governance. For him, politics are the inflammatory things you have to say in order to gain power. Once he's in power, he is more compromising and more willing to propose bipartisan solutions.
When I did my research on the relations between he and Clinton, I was amazed at the policy people in the Clinton White House all told me that behind closed doors, when there are no cameras there and a lot of other people to play to, that Gingrich was always trying to make a deal. They found Gingrich easy to deal with.
Hobson: Well, what do we know about where he stands on the big economic issues of the day?
Gillon: Gingrich doesn't really have a well thought out economic philosophy. All the issues are all framed based on his sense of what works politically. So he doesn't sit around with economists and say: OK, these are the issues that are going to be the best for America. He sits around and says: What issues can I pick and choose from that are going to undermine Democrats and improve my position?
Hobson: There's one economic idea that's gotten a lot of attention, that he has said that we should change the child labor laws in this country.
Gillon: That's typical Gingrich. You know, Gingrich comes out with wacky ideas. It won't be the last crazy idea from Newt Gingrich that we hear on the campaign trail. It's not something I think we'd have to worry about if he became president.
Hobson: Steve Gillon, author of "The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and the Rivalry that Defined a Generation." Thanks so much for joining us.
Gillon: My pleasure.
Hobson: By the way, we'll be talking about the economic policies of the other candidates in the coming weeks here on Marketplace.