Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has come under fire on several fronts, including healthcare and the housing crisis, but the ongoing attacks haven’t slowed the former House speaker’s surprising surge in the polls.
One new survey by Rasmussen Reports shows that Gingrich has now opened up a huge 13-point lead over Mitt Romney in Iowa.
“As Mr. Gingrich rises in Republican presidential polling, and as others among the GOP contenders stumble or flame out, he is coming under much closer political and personal scrutiny,” the Christian Science Monitor observed.
The mainstream media has been quick to ratchet up that scrutiny. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Gingrich’s Center for Health Transformation took in at least $37 million over the last eight years from such healthcare companies as Blue Cross Blue Shield and AstraZeneca.
The center advocated the idea that any American who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health insurance or post a bond — a requirement that the Post likens to the individual mandate in President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform plan.
GOP presidential rival Mitt Romney — who has been criticized for the healthcare plan adopted in Massachusetts when he served as governor — referred to Gingrich’s stance at one debate when he told Newt: “We got the idea of an individual mandate from you.”
According to the Post, the individual mandate was part of the Center for Health Transformation’s “Insure All Americans” plan, which has now disappeared from the organization’s web site. Gingrich no longer owns the center.
Gingrich has also taken heat in recent days following revelations that he received between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from the federally sponsored mortgage giant Freddie Mac before the housing bubble burst.
Gingrich rebuffed allegations that the money was paid in return for the former congressman’s lobbying efforts.
“I was approached to offer strategic advice — I do no lobbying of any kind. I never have,” Gingrich told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren on Thursday.
He also said: “I did this at a number of companies who would come in and ask for advice on a wide range of things. And as long as they were topics that I was interested in and topics that I cared about, I was very happy to share ideas with people.”
Also on Thursday, Gingrich acknowledged that he will face greater press scrutiny in coming weeks, and charged that the liberal media are targeting him and other GOP candidates “partly out of bias.”
He said at a Thursday rally in Jacksonville, Fla.: “In the next three weeks, I predict we’ll have all sorts of questions about me.”
So far the increased scrutiny of Gingrich hasn’t impacted his rise in the polls. The new Rasmussen Reports survey of likely Republican caucus participants in Iowa finds him leading the field with 32 percent of the vote, far ahead of Romney’s 19 percent. Herman Cain is third with 13 percent, and Ron Paul garners 10 percent.
Gingrich’s showing is a huge leap from the 9 percent he received in last month’s Rasmussen poll.
Gingrich’s 13-point lead “is unusually large for this year in Iowa and represents the former congressman’s skilled debate performances, his public praise for GOP competitors, and a relentless attack on Obama,” Andrew Malcolm writes on Investor’s Business Daily.
A new Fox News poll also shows Gingrich’s support on the rise. In late October he received 12 percent of the votes in a Fox survey, but that figure has nearly doubled to 23 percent in the new poll — one percentage point ahead of Romney.
The poll also shows that Gingrich is the solid choice among voters who are part of the tea party movement. They give Gingrich 35 percent of their votes. Cain gets 20 percent and Romney, 15 percent.
When asked who they would trust most with nuclear weapons, nearly twice as many primary voters say Gingrich than Romney, 30 percent to 17 percent.
But respondents still believe that Romney has a better chance of defeating Obama in 2012 — 37 percent of primary voters think Romney is the most electable candidate, while 18 percent cite Gingrich.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert told Politico that when it comes to political and personal scrutiny, Gingrich is “going to see a real barrage. His success really depends on how he handles himself.”
Editor’s Note: Newt Gingrich 2012? Vote Here Now
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