Just three weeks earlier, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was sailing high. He won the South Carolina primary and seemed headed for Florida with the wind at his back.
That was before Mitt Romney ripped him apart with the toughest and nastiest ads I have ever witnessed. To Romney's great credit, he buried Gingrich with ads and two strong debate performances in one week.
After the next three states to vote chose Rick Santorum over Romney and Gingrich, it appeared the race was an open battle once again. But then came the conservative CPAC gathering in Washington.
Gingrich gave a speech that received standing ovation after standing ovation, but when the straw poll of "attendees" was taken, the lack of resources and organization slapped Newt in the face again.
Romney is nothing less than a political animal, equaled only by Barack Obama. And that is perhaps why "establishment" Republicans support him . . . he is disciplined and politically tough enough to take on President Obama.
The national press is working overtime to pronounce Gingrich a dead duck. And, if he and his separate super PAC don't get their separate efforts under control, Super Tuesday could be a "Super Disaster" for Gingrich.
So what is a fading speaker to do? Newt needs to take what money he has left, ditch the plane and the policy wonks, choose one pre-Super Tuesday primary and attack Romney and Santorum with everything he has.
The "Good Newt" strategy has proved to be a bust. No one wants good this year. He can't compete in Michigan because the other two major candidates have resource and natural-base advantages. Furthermore, since he is lagging in the polls, Romney will be forced to go all-out so as not to be embarrassed in one of his "home states."
Newt must be wondering what happened to all the money in his super PAC. The PAC was overwhelmed by Romney television ads in Florida, and reportedly, it wasted huge amounts on radio in the Sunshine State, while Gingrich was being savaged by Romney on TV. And remember, folks, TV always trumps (no pun intended) radio.
His campaign and PAC better come out swinging. Gingrich needs to explain why Santorum (whose votes on issues related to big labor and the minimum wage are highly vulnerable) and Romney are from moderate-to-liberal states where political survival required some pretty non-conservative actions. And he needs to say it in ads and in debates.
And no, I am not Newt's Kellyanne Conway. He put his money down with her as his "dream team" pollster, and he's stuck with the results. I just know that you cannot limp into Super Tuesday with no wins and no second place awards.
It will be a miracle if Newt's band of "merry men and women" can invent a springboard strategy that could salvage the next few weeks.
If he were to put all of his resources in Arizona and blew the other two major candidates up at one decibel level meaner than them (and that is pretty mean) on television, Gingrich could not only pull an upset, but turn momentum around just before Super Tuesday. Arizona is home to the next major televised debate, scheduled just a few days before the vote.
But for Gingrich to survive, he will have to shed the "grandfatherly" approach to life he has applied and become the relatively ruthless, tough, unforgiving person I used to know and love. If he does that, then Lord help Mitt, Rick, and the rest of this rather questionable field of GOP candidates who currently seem to be assuring President Obama's re-election.
When Gingrich has money and a taste for political blood, he can upset anyone's applecart. But when the Three Stooges are running around the cart and he has no apples, the story is not funny, nor has it a happy ending.
Matt Towery is author of the book "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency." He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.
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