Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank went out with a bang. In a nearly hourlong press conference this afternoon, Congressman Frank explained his decision not to seek re-election and why he hopes Newt Gingrich will win the Republican nomination.
Congressman Frank, who has held his seat in the House of Representatives since 1980, told reporters at the farewell presser he wants Mr. Gingrich to continue his recent rise in the polls and eventually defeat formerly ironclad frontrunner Mitt Romney.
“It still is unlikely, but I have hopes,” said Congressman Frank.
Congressman Frank predicted Mr. Gingrich’s conservative positions might secure him the Republican nomination, but those same stances will be a dud with voters in the general election. As an example, Congressman Frank cited the issue of same sex marriage.
“I look forward to debating the Defense of Marriage Act with Mr. Gingrich,” Congressman Frank said.
Congressman Frank is openly gay and Mr. Gingrich has a tumultuous romantic history including three marriages and multiple affairs.
“I think he is an ideal opponent for us when we talk about just who it is threatening the sanctity of marriage,” Congressman Frank said.
Congressman Frank invoked Barry Goldwater’s failed 1964 White House bid, which resulted in a win for Democrat Lyndon Johnson after backlash against Mr. Goldwater’s staunch conservatism.
“He would be the best thing that happened to the democratic primary since Barry Goldwater,” Congressman Frank said of Mr. Gingrich.
Mr. Gingrich has climbed up to first place in the polls after getting his campaign off to a disastrous start. Congressman Frank described Mr. Gingrich’s resurgence as “a repudiation of Mitt Romney,” who was once considered an invincible frontrunner, but has been unable to woo conservative voters.
“Given the nature of the Republican primary electorate, which is a very conservative electorate, I think it’s possIble that Newt wins,” said Congressman Frank.
In addition to expounding on the presidential race, Congressman Frank discussed the reasons for his departure from Congress. He told reporters he initially “tentatively” decided to make this his last term because he is getting older and needed a rest.
“I spent a very busy and somewhat stressful four years with the financial crisis,” said Congressman Frank, who was chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services until earlier this year.
He also named recent redistricting as another reason for his departure. Congressman Frank said the need to explore and shore up support in the new boundaries of his district would take his focus away from his key issues.
“I wanted to have maximum influence on two issues–protecting financial reform and making sure military spending was part of the mix on deficit reduction,” Congressman Frank said. “The need to campaign in a district that is almost half new conflicts with that.”
Congressman Frank also indicated a desire to try his hand at academia.
“This decision was precipitated by Congressional redistricting, not entiirely caused by it,” Congressman Frank said. ”I’ve been ambivalent about running, there are other things I’d like to do in my life before my career is over.”
Though he doesn’t want “any institutional affiliation,” Congressman Frank said he hopes to fill his days with “some combination of writing teaching and lecturing.” He also mentioned a desire to complete his aborted PhD.
Congressman Frank said his political career got in the way of his literary aspirations.
“Some people are able to write and also pursue an active life. I am easily distracted,” Congressman Frank said. “I will take almost any excuse not to write, and I do want to write and I want to write about some serious issues.”
Congressman Frank said he believes his party will do well without him–especially with Newt Gingrich looking like their likely opponent in 2012.
“Things are looking better for the Democrats,” said. Congressman Frank “If Newt Gingrich is the nominee, then, wow.”