After Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s original staff deserted him in the spring for what it saw as his insufficient focus on the campaign, political operatives in both parties left the former House speaker’s campaign for dead. But now, those same insiders are coming to grips with the fact that Gingrich has a good chance to upset front-runner Mitt Romney, Politico
Such a comeback would be akin to Richard Nixon’s election as president in 1968 after his humiliating loss in the California gubernatorial race of 1962, the news service points out.
On the Democratic side, President Barack Obama’s campaign aides are rushing to put together a playbook to deal with Gingrich after assuming for three years that the president would face former Massachusetts Gov. Romney in November.
Gingrich might represent a more powerful anti-Obama figure for the GOP than Romney, Democrats say. “Republicans want someone who can snarl at the president,” a Democrat close to the White House told Politico. “Newt’s snarl is more genuine than Mitt’s.”
Given Gingrich’s personal baggage, the Obama campaign has tended to view him as an easier opponent than Romney. But now it’s starting to change that view. First, Gingrich is a strong debater. It’s his debate performances that initially pushed him to the top of the polls.
In addition, the former House speaker represents a much more unpredictable foe and someone who may have a greater ability to energize the conservative GOP base than Romney.
A contest against Gingrich “would be a nastier, more intense campaign,” the Democrat close to the White House said. “Newt has a history of getting people to rise to his bait. The president would have to stay mellow, steady Eddie.”
Republicans are starting to get excited about someone who can fire up tea party members and other core Republicans.
“Newt told me five weeks ago, right when [Herman] Cain tripped on the first woman thing, ‘I’m going to get a surge here — watch,’” a top Republican consultant told Politico. “And dang if he wasn’t right. He is still one smart son of a b----.”
Politico lists six reasons why Gingrich may win.
1. “Romney, who should have had every advantage, is being forced to play catch-up.”
“He played defense with too much time on the clock,” Republican consultant Frank Luntz told Politico. “And when he shows up, there’s not enough passion. We haven’t seen what’s inside him.” A top GOP consultant told the news service Romney is set to attack Gingrich. “The question is: Does all that unloading help or hurt?” the consultant said. “I don’t know. People have weighed [Gingrich’s past], and they’re OK with most of it.”
2. “Gingrich’s bombastic message is pitch-perfect for the anti-Washington times.”
Voters are upset with the status quo, and Gingrich is tapping into that anger.
3. “Debates are drawing bigger audiences than ever, and Gingrich is a crowd-pleaser.”
His strong showings in the debates have inspired Republicans. “[This] is not a time for timidity,” an Iowa Republican official told Politico. “Conservatives want that bold, striking individual because President Obama scares them. ... They’re so tired of being told one thing during campaigns and then seeing the Republican ruling class — the establishment — do something else.”
4. “Social conservatives, an essential ingredient of the GOP base, don’t trust Romney.
Gingrich “would be my top choice at the moment in terms of the full package — ideas and positions and ability to beat Obama in 2012,” a top Christian organizer told Politico. “Gingrich might not be as conservative as we like on every issue, and he may have had different opinions over the decade. But he still doesn’t attain the level of Romney in seeming lack of sincerity and authenticity.”
5. “The Obama campaign’s anti-Romney barrage took a toll, doing part of Gingrich’s work for him.”
The White House, the president’s re-election campaign, and the Democratic National Committee all have gone after Romney through videos, quotes, and press releases. “If I were Romney, I’d be screaming from the hilltops, ‘Don’t let Barack Obama determine your nominee,’” said GOP consultant Luntz.
6. “Momentum will be his [Gingrich’s] friend in the tightly spaced early contests — with the first four finishing on Jan 31.
“If Gingrich wins Iowa, and Romney limps through New Hampshire, Newt could clean up in South Carolina and Florida,” said a Republican strategist. “It could be over quickly.” And even if Romney fares well early on, Gingrich’s persistence could keep him in the race for the long haul, a veteran GOP consultant told Politico.
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