This week, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has seen his polls numbers skyrocket, propelling him out of the doldrums and into – according to some polls – a dead heat with Mitt Romney and Herman Cain. Back in June, I called for Gingrich to step aside following the mass exodus of his campaign staff, who accused him of using the campaign mostly as a money making venture, making numerous stops for book signings and documentary showings rather than legitimate campaign stops.
Voters have latched on to Gingrich as of late, a continued sign that voters are not connecting with perceived frontrunner Romney. Gingrich has shown resiliency in the polls with his abrasive, tell-it-like-it-is approach throughout the campaign and during debates. However, his surge will not signal a run to the GOP candidacy, it is a little too late. Gingrich, like many other Republican candidates, is a wild card. His rhetoric is often askew and demeaning, while his record suggests that he is susceptible to stepping on the proverbial media landmine. As Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), and now, Herman Cain did before him, Gingrich – and his poll numbers – will wilt in the coming weeks.
A key factor contributing to Gingrich's rise of late has been his rhetoric during debates. He has tugged at the heartstrings of the Tea Party and grassroots Republicans by lashing out at the mainstream media any chance he gets, while also maintaining his no-nonsense, almost arrogant attitude. His verbal sparring with CBS anchor Scott Pelley on Saturday during the foreign policy debate and his back and forth with CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo are stern examples of that. Gingrich views himself as knowledgeable, respected, and politically seasoned, and few would dispute that, but he may too arrogant and full of himself – his campaign slogan could easily be changed to "I'm better than you and I know it." There is a thin line between being confident and being smug, and Gingrich often crosses it. As speaker of the house, he claimed, “people like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz.”
Gingrich, a Republican ideologue, is the flavor of the month for the Republican Party. He has benefitted from the Herman Cain sexual abuse scandal and Perry’s debilitating gaffe, and as both Cain and Perry have found out, it is a lot easier to come through the pack than it is to be a frontrunner. Sure, he has performed admirably at the latest debates and his favorability rating is through the roof, but this is the same man who resigned as speaker of the house because he lost the trust of his party. Gingrich also had a favorability rating of around 20% during his time as speaker.
It is only a matter of time before Gingrich gets tripped up. As an early favorite, it took him merely two weeks to sabotage his campaign by criticizing Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan. Republicans are searching for anyone to latch on to, and while the former speaker might be today’s "anyone but Romney" candidate, all it takes is one slip up and he will once again fall back in line.
Gingrich has a minimal chance to win the GOP primary because as pundit Matt Towery put it, “Newt has to be not Newt,” to win, a feat that may be impossible. At least he will make a ton of money selling his books and DVDs.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore