Is Newt Gingrich running for President? The speculation has been rampant since his book got published. Today, Gingrich gave an impassioned speech at CPAC blending conservative principles and pragmatism – a path on which he has been headed for a while.

Gingrich’s basic formula is simple. He wants the GOP to approach the popular issues from a popular perspective and center the GOP as the party best aligned with the American public. His strategy is what he calls the 80% issue – if an issue has support from 80% of the public, it is better to stand by that issue than an issue with 10% support. Gingrich further emphasized that we should use the 80% strategy with issues on which liberals are clearly weak, e.g. the pledge of allegiance.

Of note, Gingrich is the first person at CPAC to articulate a solution to immigration that placates conservatives on “amnesty” and describes a solution for open borders. As Gingrich says, we must close the border or open all the way, the latter choice not being a real solution. Gingrich, like a growing number fo Republicans, recognizes that immigration is, in a post September 11th award, a security issue before it is an economic issue. Gingrich said we need to close both borders (Gingrich points out that many of the terrorists who have entered our country have come from Canada), check all identification, keep detailed records of everyone coming through the borders (he suggests using retinal scans), and provide uncomplicated access to green cards for potential legal immigrants wanting access to our country for work and economics. His idea is much more palatable to conservatives than the President’s own proposal – something the President is going to have to come to grips with.

Augustine at RedState has speculated that the 2008 field is ripe for a latently anti-Bush candidate – complimentary of Bush, but clearly dedicated to smaller government. Gingrich’s impassioned defense of conservative ideas combined with real world pragmatism might be a clue that he is setting himself up as just such a candidate. Whether or not it will work remains to be seen.