The GOP nominating process has been a roller coaster this year, with each of the candidates, save former Ambassador Jon Huntsman or former Senator Rick Santorum all flying high, at least for a bit. In the early stages, it was Romney, who was the frontrunner during the early stages of this year, pretty much by default, due to name recognition stemming from his run in 2008 and his snazzy haircut. Then it was subsequently Rep. Michele Bachmann for a bit, followed by Gov. Rick Perry for a few minutes, with Herman Cain taking the spotlight until early last week. Throughout, Romney has consistently been in second place, hovering within reach of the top by a few points pretty much the entire time. And now with Cain’s recent stumble stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct and a few brain farts, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been the beneficiary of Cain’s self-inflicted implosion. Why is this?
Well, there’s a couple of reasons. First of all, he’s consistently delivered strong debate performances. He’s never made any major gaffes. And he’s sounded intelligent and reasonable. What’s more striking, for the first time in his political career, he hasn’t been under attack. In the recent debates, Gingrich, who has also abstained, somewhat remarkably, from attacking his colleagues, has also had the benefit of not being on the receiving end of any attacks from his competitors.
For those of us that are familiar with Gingrich, we know that this is a first for him. Gingrich, savvy political operator that he is, has never really demonstrated restraint when it comes to getting what he wants. But he seems to have taken Ronald Reagan’s eleventh commandment to heart: Never speak ill of a fellow Republican. That, in conjunction with his intelligence, his long government service, and consistent debate performances has catapulted him into front ranks of the GOP nomination. He now has a plausible chance at taking the nomination.
Gingrich has baggage. His campaign’s early stages was an unmitigated disaster, with his entire staff, at one point, quitting en masse. He’s been dogged by charges relating to a charge account at the jeweler’s Tiffany’s, and now there’s reports coming to light that his consulting firm was paid $1.6 million by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for strategic advising services (read: unofficial lobbying). Frankly, I don’t think that these charges are going to really damage his campaign. But his campaign, at least at this point, doesn’t have a lot of staff, particularly in either Iowa or New Hampshire.
But for once in his professional life, Newt Gingrich, wonder of wonders, seems to have somewhat mellowed. And that new tactic for him is paying massive dividends. I still think that Romney will ultimately prevail. He’s the most likely candidate. But, by the same token, at this point in 2007, so was Hillary Clinton. Stay tuned.