Newton’s Laws: The Phantom Gingrich Comeback

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I realize that it seems every candidate in the Republican 2012 field gets an Andy Warhol-esque fifteen minutes of glory. But color me skeptical about the notion of a Newt Gingrich surge. This National Review story, pegged to some slight fundraising and poll progress by the former House Speaker, leaves me thoroughly unconvinced that Newt is poised to vault into the top tier of candidates and represent the party’s base against Mitt Romney. The key evidence cited is that Newt is finally flirting with double-digit support in national polls, and that his campaign has reported a mere $1 million in debt through Sept. 30. Oh, and also that Newt has hired some primary state staffers, produced “a slew of Web videos,” and that his aides have determined he should “review news items” and drink Diet Coke before debates.

Uh-huh. Clearly, “Yes, We Can,” this is not. Gingrich’s aides even make the curious argument that Newt has been laying low, not traveling very much and avoiding media interviews–apparently so as to preserve his authority, lest he seem like a mere “pundit.” Or a candidate. In truth, Newt has no discernible momentum. He’s ticked up, barely, in Iowa, but runs behind Ron Paul there, and only slightly ahead of Michele Bachmann. He looks even worse in New Hampshire, drawing a puny 5.8%, by the Real Clear Politics average–just a point ahead of the woeful Jon Huntsman. (By the way: That hint of Hunstmentum we saw a few weeks ago now looks more like a blip than a spark.) South Carolina? Newt’s bounced between a ho-hum five and eight percent over the past several months.

And then there’s Newt’s biggest problem of all. He is a known quantity. Most Republican voters have had years to size the guy up, first in Congress, then as an activist-pundit. And to the extent they don’t know things about him, they are likely to be bad things–his multiple marriages, his past support for a health care mandate, his brief enthusiasm for combating climate change alongside Nancy Pelosi. After one of the most disastrous campaign rollouts of all time–bringing to mind the Chinese luxury yacht which sank at its own christening–Gingrich has returned to the high-single-digits level at which he joined the GOP race this past May. It may be true that the political media is ready to discard Herman Cain for the New New Thing. But despite his campaign’s noble efforts to gin up a Gingrich-surge storyline, don’t hold your breath waiting for Newton Gingrich’s apple to defy political gravity.