Newt Gingrich’s campaign has risen from the grave. Twice. Gingrich’s campaign has been a roller-coaster ride of successes and failures. Through it all however Gingrich has been unable to be a solid alternative to Mitt Romney. Just any of Romney’s other rivals.
Gingrich’s entrance into the GOP presidential field last year was a disaster. First there was the “right-wing social engineering” comments on Paul Ryan’s budget plan to reform Medicare and balance the budget. Than there were the allegations of being on a yacht with his wife instead of campaigning. This led to an internal dispute in camp that led to his entire campaign staff leaving for then Rick Perry’s emerging campaign.
Yet Gingrich somehow stayed in and waged a mostly underfunded and weak campaign. When Herman Cain’s support fell apart and he dropped out of the race Gingrich surged. This surge is largely attributed to several extremely strong debate performances. Gingrich took a brief lead in national polls and led the field in Iowa. That lead was short-lived. Romney, who had decided about four weeks before IA’s Caucus to fight for the state, launched a massive ad barrage aimed at Gingrich. The result was Gingrich bleeding support badly. Unable to fight back Gingrich was pounded. In the end Rick Santorum surged in Iowa and Gingrich finished a weak 4th in Iowa.
New Hampshire was no better for the former Speaker. He finished a weak 4th and looked finished. Yet Gingrich’s campaign, living on a wing and a prayer, went into South Carolina eyeing only a victory. Gingrich started out almost 20 points behind Romney but soon began to surge. His class attacks against Romney as well as his strong debate performances yet again brought life to his campaign.
Romney was battered with bad news for the entire week leading up to South Carolina’s primary and on the Friday before voting occurred seemed to concede SC. The next day Gingrich soundly won South Carolina 40%-28% over Romney with Santorum a distant third at 17%. Romney lost among virtually every major voting bloc and lost any momentum he had left from New Hampshire.
Even before voting started in Iowa on January 3rd Romney’s campaign was hard at work in Florida. By the time South Carolina had its primary on the 21st a reported 150,000 absentee ballots had been mailed in for the GOP primary. The belief is these votes strongly favor Romney because these absentee voters were heavily pursued by his campaign. Also, up until South Carolina Romney held large polling leads in Florida. Romney has a similar campaign infrastructure set up around the nation.
The lead Romney held in Florida right before South Carolina quickly evaporated. Yet again, Gingrich’s campaign had risen from the dead. But this rise was as short-lived as his rise in Iowa. Gingrich’s surge in national and Florida polls seemed to simply reflect white noise from his victory in South Carolina. Furthermore, after South Carolina Romney’s campaign continued to seem off-track and struggling to regain its footing.
In Florida the Romney campaign got back on track. The debate on Monday seemed to epitomize what made Gingrich’s rise so possible. His working of a debate crowd, and thus his success at the debates. But on Monday that success was extremely limited. Gingrich and Romney jabbed but did little lasting damage to each other. Gingrich did not have any zingers like he did in South Carolina. Soon after Gingrich’s campaign fell into free-fall.
The day before the second Florida debate on the 26th, Gingrich announced at a campaign event that by the end of his second term as president we would have a colony on the moon. Known for making grandiose statements this was not smart. The next day, at the debate, Romney hit him on it for its foolishness and budgetary waste. At the debate Romney was sharp and finally found his voice against Gingrich’s attacks on his wealth, investments and work at Bain Capitol. Santorum had success hitting him on Romneycare but his campaign is all but dead.
Gingrich also struggled to explain several heated questions. The first was from moderator Wolf Blitzer, who questioned him on his investments. Gingrich tried to him and haw it away but Bitzer persisted, arguing it was relevant because of his similar attacks on Romney. Gingrich seemed shocked the media would finally fight back against him. Gingrich also had no defense when Romney hit him for his attacks on his investments. Like explaining something to a child Romney explained what a mutual fund is and that you cannot control every stock you own in one. Even Santorum backed up Romney on this point.
Gingrich’s campaign imploded on that night. There is likely to be no recovery from this. Romney is now firmly holding 5-10 point leads in Florida polls and his lead among absentee ballot voters only makes his true lead bigger. Romney’s ground game is also now in full sprint mode while Gingrich’s campaign does not have one.
To be fair, part of Gingrich’s implosion is not of his own making. Sure, he made stupid comments and he let himself finally be bested in a debate, but Romney’s slow and stead strategy is paying off. Romney’s campaign and affiliated PAC’s spent an incredible amount of money on new TV and radio ads blasting Gingrich on immigration (Cuban-American population in Southern Florida), his history of ethics problems in the House and his attacks on Romney’s investments. Combine this with a strong Romney debate performance and probably the worst debate performance for Gingrich and a multi-million dollar campaign being utililized in FL and it seems Gingrich’s implosion was inevitable.
Afterall, let us keep in mind this is the guy who rose to prominence in Georgia with backstabbing and gold old boy politics. Than he rode the GOP Revolution of 94 to power only to in four short years wound his party and likely cost them the 96 presidential election.
Now there are still four days before the primary. I could be dead wrong on this. But I don’t think so. Gingrich’s last major chance to impress a different demographic of voters in FL compared to SC was Thursday and he thoroughly bombed it. Worse, his campaign has no new lines of attack against Romney. In the last few days both Gingrich and Santorum have hit Romney on MA healthcare law but it appears to be to little to late. Romney’s campaign is making sure his underfunded opponents cannot change the polls in Florida.
Gingrich’s implosion is not surprising, nor our his rises. The man has always flown by the seat of his pants and had an idea a minute. It has been his greatest asset as well as weakness. That double-edged sword finally led to Gingrich’s impl0sion.