The conventional wisdom holds that Gingrich fell as a result of highly effective attack ads aired in Iowa by rival Ron Paul and a super PAC working on behalf of Mitt Romney. Certainly those ads, which focused on issues like Gingrich’s paid work for Freddie Mac and his global-warming partnership with Nancy Pelosi, did some damage. But talks with voters here in New Hampshire and with politicos in South Carolina suggest the ads are not what killed Gingrich. It was Gingrich’s reaction to the ads.

Voters who once supported Gingrich but have now turned away from him say that his hot-tempered response to the ads, rather than the ads themselves, simply turned them off. “He’s got a temper,” said one Tea Party member at a Nashua coffeehouse Saturday morning. “I don’t want a guy with a temper with his finger on the button.” Other voters said Gingrich’s ill-tempered complaints about the ads distracted them from the former speaker’s message about jobs, the economy, and American renewal.