"He is firing on all pistons and having fun"

Even when he’s getting beaten up on the debate stage, Gingrich supporters see their candidate getting a kick out of the whole experience. At last weekend’s debate in Iowa, Gingrich hammed it up and mugged to the crowd, shaking his head and mouthing “no” to a national television audience when Romney suggested that perhaps his opponent might regret calling the Palestinians an “invented” people. On Thursday, when Gingrich’s rivals came after him with force, he still managed to get in a wry crack about his penchant for overstatement, and lecture the moderators on Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln’s views on the judiciary…

In Gingrich’s view, his detours into professor mode — whether he’s literally standing at a lectern, or just waxing scholarly to any crowd in front of him — aren’t diversions from the purpose of his presidential run.

In a sense, they are the whole point of the campaign for a candidate who sees himself as a teacher with a wonderfully large classroom in front of him. And as Gingrich reads it, one voter’s obscure issue is another’s consuming interest.

“As speaker, he had an intense interest in issues like diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other health-related issues,” Martin recalled. “Millions of Americans are impacted by these issues so the fact he is talking directly to them is not a surprise. He knows exactly what he is doing. This isn’t accidental or awkward.”