“The chattering class that left Gingrich for dead months ago is now talking of a revival. Although his poll numbers have ticked up, it’s unclear whether Republican voters will cooperate with the new pundit narrative. But Gingrich deserves the proverbial second look. For all his vast and well-established flaws, he’s a figure whose strengths match the moment…
“It’s counterintuitive to categorize a former speaker of the House and the builder of a sprawling archipelago of Beltway organizations as an outsider-populist. But Gingrich never lost his genius for the outré. In his prickly hostility to representatives of the media at the debates, he’s trained his fire on the institution that unites all Republicans in their disdain. He can be as inflammatory as Donald Trump and as populist as Sarah Palin. Yet he brings to the table the wellsprings of knowledge of a history Ph.D. and an incorrigible — insufferable, perhaps — policy wonk.
“No politician has spent so long saying we need such fundamental change. It is typical of Gingrich that his 21st-century Contract with America is conceived as “a larger and more complex developmental challenge than any presidential campaign has undertaken in modern times.” Cue the eye-rolling. But the country now has such grave challenges even beyond the headline problems of joblessness and spiraling debt that there’s a place for a candidate devoted to upending 20th-century structures in health care, education, and more. Never have Gingrich’s extravagant overstatements seemed so apt.”
“Republican voters also ranked Romney as the most qualified Republican contender to be commander-in-chief, with 26 percent support. He was followed by Gingrich, with 21 percent, and then Cain, with 11 percent.
“Gingrich, meanwhile, was ranked most trustworthy in handling an international crisis, earning 31 percent support to Romney’s 15 percent.”
“Mr. Romney’s polls seem to be bending down a bit. Over the past week or two, we’ve seen a larger number of polls, both at the state and national level, that show him below rather than above 20 percent; the trend line from our graph, in fact, now has him at only about 18 percent overall. Considering that other Republicans have had their problems during this time period, I would call this trend at least mildly worrying for Mr. Romney’s campaign. I certainly consider Mr. Romney the clear favorite to win the Republican nomination, but these numbers do not exactly suggest that there is anything inevitable about it…
“If Mr. Romney and Mr. Cain are on a somewhat downward trajectory, you’d expect to see another candidate gaining ground. And that candidate is, indeed, Newt Gingrich. He’s polling in the mid- to high teens in most recent surveys, with occasional forays into the 20s. Also, for whatever reason, his state-by-state polls have generally been better than his national polls, so if anything the national surveys may somewhat understate his momentum. This method now shows him at about 18 or 19 percent of the vote, meaning that he’s roughly tied with Mitt Romney…
“[H]e, Mr. Romney and Mr. Cain may now be in a rough three-way tie for the Republican polling lead. Polls certainly aren’t everything in a presidential primary, and for reasons I outlined earlier this week, Mr. Gingrich might have trouble maintaining his momentum as his campaign begins to receive more scrutiny. Still, it looks as if he’s going to enjoy his moment in the sun.”
“Fundraising and Campaign Infrastructure. Mr. Gingrich’s fundraising has been simply abysmal — just $2.9 million brought in through Sept. 30. Not only that, but as of Sept. 30, Mr. Gingrich had only $353,000 in cash on hand but $1.2 million in debt. There’s some question about whether fundraising is more of a lagging or a leading indicator; the money sometimes follows the polls. But it is hard to see how numbers like these are anything other than a huge problem for Mr. Gingrich.
“What they may really point toward is his lack of a robust campaign infrastructure, caused in part by numerous staff defections early in this campaign. He may even be in something of a Catch-22: it’s hard to hire staff if you don’t have money, but it’s hard to raise money if you don’t have any staff. Whether Mr. Gingrich makes a credible effort to address these issues over the next several weeks will be a good sign of how seriously his surge should be taken.
“Ideological Positioning. Mr. Gingrich got himself into trouble early on with his apostasies over Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan. But most every Republican candidate has one or two positions that they now find inconvenient, and Mr. Gingrich’s overall ideological positioning isn’t bad given the mood of the Republican electorate. We did not include Mr. Gingrich in our recent magazine feature on Republican candidates that rated their ideology from center to right on a 100-point scale, but his score would be fairly close to that of Gov. Rick Perry, which in my view represents something of a sweet spot for the Republican primary electorate: solidly conservative but not in Michele Bachmann territory. Mr. Gingrich is also fairly well positioned on what I call the establishment-insurgent axis; he can claim to know how Washington works while also seeming like an outsider since he has been out of it for some time.
“This, overall, is one of Mr. Gingrich’s greater strengths: one can imagine him being acceptable in theory to a fairly broad array of conservative voters.”
“It’s pretty simple. Ideas come to you easily when you have no principles to get in the way of your roaming untrained intellect. So what are some of the ideas Newt Gingrich has promoted? Are they even conservative ideas?
“He promoted the return of the Fairness Doctrine.
“He was for a federal individual health-care mandate, the lynchpin of ObamaCare.
“He was practically spooning Nancy Pelosi in commercials about the need for government action on global warming.
“He supports green energy projects [Solyndras] and farm-subsidies.
“Even as late as this year he was pitching for more government intervention in the health-care system at the progressive Brookings Institution.
“How is Gingrich an improvement on Mitt Romney?”