Americans’ gut reaction to Newt Gingrich is just really not good. Based on two recent polls, WaPo’s Aaron Blake even brands him “the most disliked politician in America.”
A CNN/Opinion Research poll on Monday showed 63 percent of All Americans viewed Gingrich unfavorably, compared to just 25 percent who saw him in a positive light.
And today, a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows a similar split: 54 percent view Gingrich unfavorably, compared to 16 percent who say they feel positively predisposed towards him.
Those 38-point spreads between his favorable and unfavorable ratings are a new high for Gingrich in the 2012 campaign and tie his worst numbers from 1997, when he faced ethics troubles and a GOP revolt during his time as speaker of the House. (Fun fact: now-Sen. Al Franken joked in 1996 that Gingrich’s “favorable rating is only four points higher than the Unabomber.”)
And in fact, the numbers are worse than any national political figure The Fix could find in recent years — even, arguably, George W. Bush.
According to Blake, not even Sarah Palin at her most divisive drew these kinds of disapproving numbers.
Gingrich has been “the Zombie candidate” since Florida, where his decisive defeat abruptly halted whatever momentum he picked up in South Carolina. “Establishment” Republicans and conservatives alike have criticized his campaign and even called for him to quit the race. With Santorum’s rise, conservative consolidation about another candidate begins to seem possible. Yet, Gingrich insists that he will remain in the presidential race clear up to the convention.
It’s hard not to believe him: Money and organization will be an issue, but he has engineered two highly unpredictable comebacks on the campaign trail so far. He probably won’t be able to pull off a third, but his brand of articulate anger toward Obama and his recycled strategy of positivity toward the other candidates might enable him to weather any number of disappointing primary rounds. Not even these approval numbers compel me to discount his persistence.
But he might want to give some thought to this question: If he stays in the race too long, will the power of his voice be diminished post-election? As a presidential candidate, Newt elicits a negative visceral reaction, but, as an author and the force behind films like “Nine Days that Changed the World,” he provides a valuable perspective to the conservative movement — a perspective born of the institutional memory he loves to deny as he claims “outsider” status on the campaign trail … and also born of the lessons he’s learned from unsavory life experiences that are a liability to him in electoral politics.
Given all that Newt Gingrich has done for the conservative movement — and all that he could continue to do in the roles he played before he ran for president, it would be an immense shame if his appetite for the presidency caused the rest of the country to lose its appetite for his non-political projects.