True, Gingrich has a lot of baggage. But many voters had instead focused on his much-praised performance in the GOP debates and the favorable press he received after. There was also substantial unhappiness with the other contenders.

Once Gingrich became a credible candidate, however, the media began to scrutinize him more carefully. The resulting stories did not paint a favorable portrait. The bottom line is that Gingrich’s checkered record — not the attack ads — drove his decline in the polls.

Perhaps Gingrich’s support has now stabilized. He could finish in the top three in Iowa. But if he finishes below this, it could fuel this hasty and ill-conceived discussion about the power of negative ads.

The real power is in the nominating process — which is set up to vet all serious candidates. Gingrich essentially got a free ride until early December. But once it looked like he might be able to win Iowa — and perhaps the nomination — the bright lights of the news media focused on him.