Last week, my brother (and only sibling who is a conservative) called to talk politics. I come from a long-winded family, so I settled in.
Mark was particularly anxious to discuss the Presidential race and breathlessly pronounced that he had FINALLY settled on a GOP candidate.
"Who might that be, Mark?" I asked listlessly.
"Newt. Newt is the only one who can pull off this election," my brother responded.
At this point, I think I blacked out a little bit because I didn't quite catch his finer points involving Newt's grasp of constitutional law. When my brother finally wound down, I pointed out that GOP voters are not going to be thrilled to re-visit 1998, when Newt the Lout was recieving oral sex from a staffer (whom he later married after divorcing his second, or was it third wife?)
"Well, uh, maybe. But Newt is the only one who can save the country."
Apparently, others are beginning to see my Big Brother's point of view. The newest PPI poll shows Newt is on top(reportedly his favorite position.) More from Josh Richman at the Oakland Tribune.
"....In July, it was Michele Bachmann; in September, Rick Perry, and in October, Herman Cain. Now Newt Gingrich is poised to be the ascendant Republican presidential candidate of the month -- or perhaps a lasting contender, if his past isn't held against him.
As former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has held relatively steady in the polls, the Minnesota congresswoman, Texas governor and former Godfather's Pizza CEO have taken their turns near the top. Cain is still there, but recent sexual harassment accusations may be taking their toll; his days at the top of the roller coaster seem numbered, and Bachmann and Perry are waving a welcome to him from halfway down.
Recent polls show a modest surge for Gingrich, the wonkish former House Speaker from Georgia, pushing him ahead of Perry with Romney and Cain still ahead. It's been a long slog back to double digits for Gingrich -- he'd seemed to have shot himself in the foot right after declaring candidacy in May, both by criticizing the Paul Ryan budget plan beloved by many in the GOP and by fumbling his response to a Tiffany jewelry credit line that was seemingly at odds with his fiscally conservative image.
"I always felt that Newt Gingrich was going to get a blip and be in second or third place coming into the primary season in January," said Judy Lloyd, of Danville, a campaign and public policy strategist, vice chair of the Lincoln Club of Northern California and a former Bush administration
Lloyd worked at the National Republican Congressional Committee as Gingrich led 1994's "Republican Revolution." She said he has "such a depth of policy knowledge and has been around for such a long time, he understands exactly how to position himself and what to say. He's virtually unflappable on the issues."
His new momentum meant Gingrich might've had more at stake than anyone else on the dais at Wednesday night's CNBC debate. And although overshadowed by Perry's memory gaffe -- failure to recall one of the federal departments he would abolish -- Gingrich generally got good reviews.
"Gingrich was on his game from the beginning when he let loose a ringing anti-(Federal Reserve Chairman Ben) Bernanke, anti-food stamps, anti-(community organizer Saul) Alinsky answer. This was the Newt everyone thought we'd see before he got in the race," National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote, predicting "(t)he narrative about his rise will continue."
Fox News commentator and former Republican congressman John LeBoutillier wrote Gingrich "again played the role of the knowledgeable elder statesman/scold who chides the media and the Establishment." The Associated Press reported Gingrich "could emerge as the newest hope for conservative activists who doubt Romney's commitment to their priorities," though he still lags in creating a ground-level campaign structure in the critical early-caucus state of Iowa -- doubtlessly due in part to lackluster fundraising.
But that could soon change. A "super political action committee" -- which can raise unlimited money so long as it doesn't directly coordinate with a candidate's campaign -- called Solutions 2012 was launched Wednesday to "support Newt Gingrich's comeback run for president" by buying ads in early-voting states.
Gingrich, the tortoise, might have an advantage over the hares that preceded him at the front of the field -- he's been on the national public stage much longer. In 1994, Bachmann was founding a charter school but had not yet sought office; Perry was Texas' Agriculture Commissioner and had only joined the GOP a few years earlier; and Cain was a Federal Reserve Bank official in Kansas City. Gingrich, however, was the House Minority Whip, co-authoring the GOP "Contract with America" that helped catapult him into the Speaker's office, second in line to the presidency.
So the media and public have had many more years to scrutinize him, leaving less chance of new surprises. The flip-side of that is that everyone knows his dirty laundry: He's the only House Speaker ever disciplined for ethics violations, and he ended two marriages with affairs, one even as he pilloried President Bill Clinton for his extramarital fling. But reviving such criticisms doesn't pack the same political punch as exposing them for the first time, so Gingrich might weather this storm better.
"Candidates often look really good until they're put under the microscope, and Gingrich has -- to put it mildly -- a colorful past," said San Jose State political-science professor Larry Gerston.
The key question could be "has he crept up because he's become more desirable, or has he crept up because others are imploding?" Gerston said. If Gingrich has earned his bump in the polls through his debate performances and the way he's running his campaign, "then we may see somebody who has renewed staying power. If he's crept up because it's 'anybody but Mitt' and we're down to the dregs, it could be another story. The jury is out right now."