I just heard that Newt Gingrich is speaking at AIPAC’s annual policy conference, which runs from March 4-6.
This is the cost of being in this position for so long: I remember when John Kerry was bumped in 2004 because, AIPAC flacks told us at the time, it was considered tacky to ask a challenger to speak, especially when an incumbent is speaking. (No such problem in 2008, because all three slated candidates — Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton — were running for an open presidency.)
Obama is speaking on March 4.
Making this curious news even curiouser: March 6 is Super Tuesday. I’ve heard from other campaigns that their candidates see campaigning as the wiser option than showing up at AIPAC.
Is this a sign Gingrich, who is trailing, is considering bailing by then? Or did AIPAC forget its customs?
I’ve got a call into AIPAC.
UPDATE: I spoke to two sources close to the matter. Here’s the chronology: Kerry was furious with the snub in 2004, which he thought was absurd. So were a bunch of his backers who also gave to AIPAC. That led AIPAC’s board to reconsider the policy. What’s more, AIPAC is going all out to make it easy for the candidates to fly in and out for the conference and still do the primaries thing.
But now I hear from one of the sources that Obama’s folks are peeved, because if all three (wait, I’ll explain) get to speak, that’s a three to one GOP-Obama time ratio.
Why three? AIPAC, citing the Republican Jewish Coalition precedent last December, is refusing to ask Ron Paul to speak.
UPDATE II: AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton confirms the policy change: "In 2004, just after the election, the AIPAC Board of Directors adopted a policy to invite all the leading presidential candidates in future elections to speak at the Policy Conference."