Last night on "NBC Nightly News," I incorrectly stated that, if elected, Newt Gingrich would be the first former speaker of the House to win the presidency. That, of course, is NOT true.
James Polk was House speaker for four years in the 1830s, then he became governor of Tennessee, and then was elected president in 1844. What got lost in my own head-to-mouth translation of what I was REALLY trying to convey: how hard it is for anyone to be elected president when their only PREVIOUS elected experience was in the House. A little history:
-- Nobody has won the presidency in over 125 years with the lone elected office experience being no higher than the U.S. House of Representatives. The last was James Garfield in 1880 and before that, Abraham Lincoln. In fact, Garfield and Lincoln are the ONLY two presidents who went from holding no office higher than the U.S. House to the highest office in the land.
-- Gingrich will be the first current or former speaker to seek the presidency since 1884, when James Blaine ran unsuccessfully.
-- Gingrich will be the FIFTH former Speaker to seek the presidency in the nation's history: Henry Clay ran three times unsuccessfully (1824, 1832 and 1844); John Bell ran once (1860); Blaine ran once (1884); and of course, Polk, who ran and won in 1844.