Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who has enjoyed a recent run-up in polls putting him close to or ahead of front-runner Mitt Romney, is trying to turn the campaign into a two-horse race between himself and the former Massachusetts governor. The former House speaker's effort received both a major boost and a major blow in the past week, Politico
The boost came in an endorsement from the New Hampshire Union Leader, a powerful conservative voice in the nation’s second primary/caucus state. “[That’s] major credibility for Newt when he needs it most,” New Hampshire GOP strategist Mike Dennehy, a key operative in John McCain’s two New Hampshire victories, told Politico. “[It] helps raise money, helps on messaging to justify momentum, and will likely help in defending some issues like immigration.”
The Union Leader will continue its tradition of almost daily editorials strongly supporting its chosen candidate and attacking his challengers, publisher Joe McQuaid told the news service.
Gingrich’s blow was the stance he took on immigration during the Nov. 22 candidates debate. He called for a “humane” policy to avoid tearing apart families who have been here for years. Law-abiding, tax-paying illegal immigrants with families would be able to stay in the country with a “red card” that wouldn’t lead to citizenship under Gingrich’s proposal.
Iowa, the nation’s first caucus/primary state, has a large portion of conservative voters, who don’t appreciate Gingrich’s stance. And his opponents are attacking him over it. They see an opportunity to strengthen themselves at Gingrich’s expense.
His immigration position may offer Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum their best and final opportunity to push Gingrich aside and launch themselves to the position as top conservative contender against Romney. And the front-runner Romney himself has a chance to improve his standing among conservatives by positioning himself to the right of Gingrich.
Romney already is trying to capitalize. His campaign’s first mailings to Iowa, sent during the weekend, advertise him as “the strongest Republican to beat Barack Obama and end illegal immigration.”
Gingrich has a thin campaign staff in Iowa, so it may be difficult for him to deliver an explanation of his immigration views to a majority of voters in the state. Given the uproar that has followed his comments in the debate, he must act fast.
“I count Gingrich as one of those who peaked and is now descending,” western Iowa GOP activist Ann Trimble-Ray told Politico, referring to the up-and-down moves of several candidates in the race. “Immigration [is a] third rail for Iowans, and Newt landed right on it.”
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