Feature

Gingrich: The latest non-Romney

A new CNN survey showed support for Gingrich soaring from the single digits to 22 percent, only 2 percent behind Romney.

“Three months ago, Newt Gingrich looked like roadkill,” said John Cassidy in The New Yorker. His Republican presidential campaign had imploded, his staff had walked out en masse, and everyone was writing his political epitaph. But now “the Mouth of the South is back.” With Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and the other more-conservative alternatives to Mitt Romney self-destructing, a new CNN survey this week showed support for Gingrich soaring from the single digits to 22 percent, only 2 percent behind Romney. Several other polls also now have the former House speaker from Georgia surging to second in the race, with Cain fading. We’ve seen plenty of these mini-surges in this strange campaign, said John Dickerson in Slate.com. But if Gingrich is able to truly challenge Romney for the nomination, “his story will surpass Richard Nixon’s as the most improbable political comeback in modern American politics.”

It simply isn’t going to happen, said Michael Tomasky in TheDailyBeast.com, because “the guy has more baggage than a Stones tour.” Gingrich, who’s been married three times, served divorce papers to his first wife while she was being treated for cancer, and he was conducting an affair while trying to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about infidelity. As House speaker, Gingrich shut down the government in 1995, causing a huge backlash against the GOP. He has a long history of reckless rhetoric, and has flip-flopped as shamelessly as Romney on issues from climate change to health-care reform. And then there’s the small matter of Gingrich’s personality, said Gene Healy in WashingtonExaminer.com. Condescending, pompous, and self-important, he speaks with the grandiloquence of a Ph.D. historian, but “there’s a zany, Cliff Clavin aspect” to his pronouncements. At times, he comes off sounding like a “guy who read way too much during a long prison stretch.”

Still, don’t write Gingrich off, said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. “The hour is late and the pickings are slim.” Many conservatives still can’t stomach Romney, and Gingrich’s “strengths match the moment.” In the Republican debates, Gingrich has mastered the art of sounding like a disgusted, populist outsider itching to put an end to Washington’s shenanigans. He also consistently displays “a prickly hostility” to the media—which always scores points with conservative voters. If Romney fails to close the deal in coming weeks, many Republican voters may “decide that you go to political war with the alternative you have.”

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