Watching Newt’s performance in tonight’s debate, I kept coming to the same conclusion. 

Newt’s not running for president—he’s running for Vice President.

It’s no secret that Newt’s campaign has had a multitude of problems, and Newt hasn’t exactly been the most active candidate on the campaign trail.  So why is he still here?

The only explanation that makes sense is that Newt is aiming for a different office.  Case in point:  not only did he refrain from personally attacking any of the other candidates, he came to the rescue of other candidates at several points of the evening.  He lambasted the moderators for their attempts to get the Republican field to attack each other, and argued that the focus should be on Obama’s failed policies.  (He followed a similar approach in the last Republican debate).

Let’s think about the qualities that make for a good VP candidate.  First, you want someone who will complement the ticket; someone who will help balance out the skills and strengths of the Presidential candidate.

The frontrunners in the GOP field–Romney and Perry–both have executive experience.  But to be an effective President, you need to be able to work with the legislative branch to get your policies implemented into law.  Newt Gingrich certainly knows how to navigate Congress, and he has experience authoring legislation.

Secondly, you need someone who will be the attack dog.  Newt is superb in this role.  He has the ability to boil down complex issues and communicate them to the general public.  At the same time, he won’t take any guff.  He actually listens to the question asked of him, and if he disagrees with the premise, he calls the questioner out on his bias.  Newt is a smart man who is quick on his feet.

Newt certainly has a lot of baggage, both personal and political.  I disagree with him on many issues, and I don’t think he has a snowballs’ chance of being the Republican candidate for president.

But it was really refreshing to hear him articulate some conservative principles (and it was really fun watching him give the moderators heck for their line of questioning). 

I think Newt may make a strong candidate for VP–that is, if Paul Ryan doesn’t want the job.

(PS:  Whoever let Jon Huntsman go on national TV wearing that mustard-colored tie should be fired.)