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December 19, 2011 8:40 AM Gingrich bounces off his Iowa ceiling

By Steve Benen

Remember, about 10 days ago, when Newt Gingrich was soaring in Iowa, had claimed the national lead, and looked well positioned to win three of the first four nominating contests?

Well, forget it. The boom-and-bust pattern that has taken down so many Republican presidential candidates appears to be affecting the disgraced former House Speaker, too.

We saw the first hints of trouble for the Gingrich campaign late last week, and overnight, a new survey from Public Policy Polling confirms that Iowa’s alleged frontrunner has quickly slipped from first to third.

Newt Gingrich’s campaign is rapidly imploding, and Ron Paul has now taken the lead in Iowa. He’s at 23% to 20% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Gingrich, 10% each for Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, 4% for Jon Huntsman, and 2% for Gary Johnson.

Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row. His share of the vote has gone from 27% to 22% to 14%. And there’s been a large drop in his personal favorability numbers as well from +31 (62/31) to +12 (52/40) to now -1 (46/47). [emphasis added]

What I find interesting about Gingrich’s precipitous fall is how different it is from the other former frontrunners. Bachmann, Perry, and Cain were each riding high for a short while, but were brought down by self-inflicted wounds — gaffes, awful debate performances, controversial policy positions, and in Cain’s case, sex scandals.

Gingrich’s collapse is very different. The former Speaker didn’t do anything in particular to derail his chances; he just ran into a buzzsaw he couldn’t control — Gingrich, especially in Iowa, faced a barrage of attack ads, which he lacked the resources to respond to. This coincided with an aggressive push from the Republican establishment to derail Gingrich’s chances.

This isn’t to say it’s too late for the former Speaker — the caucuses are two weeks from tomorrow — but it looks as if Gingrich hit his ceiling too early, and then quickly bounced off of it. With the PPP poll showing Santorum, Bachmann, and Perry all breaking into double digits in Iowa — the former Speaker is now closer to fourth place than second — it’s going to be very tough for Gingrich to reclaim the momentum.

Ron Paul, meanwhile, now appears well positioned to actually win the Iowa caucuses. (Let that thought roll around in your brain for a few seconds.) Given Paul’s likely inability to seriously compete in the contests that follow Iowa, and the perception that he isn’t a credible threat for the nomination, Mitt Romney would gladly take this outcome — it would do significant harm to Gingrich’s viability, and make it that much more likely that Romney is the last Republican standing.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on December 19, 2011 8:49 AM:

    Well, when you're as full of hot air as Newt is, you're bound to hit the ceiling sooner rather than later.

  • bad news on December 19, 2011 8:55 AM:

    Bummer.

    Still don't understand why no one but Huntsman goes after Romney. Baffling.

  • James on December 19, 2011 9:00 AM:

    One would hope that the good people in Iowa took a dim view of the proposition that the solution to poverty was putting poor school children to work cleaning toilets after the school bell has rung. And I'd hope they will take a dim view of that other proposal to arrest judges and drag them before Congress whenever the make a ruling contrary to Mr. Gingrich's wishes.

  • Danp on December 19, 2011 9:00 AM:

    And Ron Paul will win with the same 15-20 percent who envision a utopian world where treasure ships sail the ocean blue trading gold for exotic spices and cheap (read: slave) labor. That's the benefit of a media no-coverage candidate with an effective internet campaign.

  • James M on December 19, 2011 9:04 AM:

    This is bad news for BO. The best scenario would have been for Gingrich to either win the nomination (We should be so lucky!) or to remain a strong candidate, tormenting Romney right up to the convention.

    Having Newt implode so quickly means the main dynamic (Romney as the unpopular but inevitable candidate) is unchanged. Even if Ron Paul should somehow win the Iowa caucuses, as the front runner he will no doubt have a shorter life than most atomic particles.

  • c u n d gulag on December 19, 2011 9:07 AM:

    bad news,
    Maybe they think if Mitt wins, they can serve in his Cabinet, or become an Ambassador somewhere.

    If I didn't like the French more since they told Little Boots to go f*ck himself over the Iraq invasion, I'd make Newt or Bachmann their US Ambassador, just to piss them off.

    Never mind, I can't stand Sarkozy, so if, God forbid, Mitt does win, I hope he sends that gluttonous egomaniac, Newt, over there to guzzle their wine, eat their rich sauces, and constantly tell them how much better the Cab's from California are, and how the French don't know from sauces until they've tried themselves some 'red-eye gravy.'


  • Michael B on December 19, 2011 9:10 AM:

    Putting Mr. Gingrich's personal life aside, it has been reported time and time again that he cannot get along with even his own staff, one wonders how in the world he would treat other world leaders. We don't need a ham fisted, Catholic converted, bloviating history revisionist, lying POS in the White House.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on December 19, 2011 9:14 AM:

    And the Iowa Mugwump vote means exactly what ?
    Ask last year's winner Huckabee .
    This is a miniscule slice of backwoods 'bible thumping christianists whom the alleged liberal MSM love to pronounce as prognosticators of things to come in the general election.
    When we get to the real bastions of right wing lunacy like SC where the numbers actually mean something, maybe then I'll pay attention.

  • aggie bee on December 19, 2011 9:14 AM:

    The thought of Ron Paul winning Iowa is rolling around in my brain.

    Please make it stop.

  • slappy magoo on December 19, 2011 9:22 AM:

    Gingirch never wanted to BE the nominee. He wanted to be the guy who could tour the country and tell Republicans how they blew it by not making him the nominee; what Obama is doing wrong in his second term as president, and "what YOU can do to take America back/make America work/keep America strong/blank America blank (insert proper verb and adjective as you see fit)." No one was more surprised by his ascendancy than he was. Guys like Benen considered his rhetoric on child labor and censoring the judicial system as sign of lunacy. It wasn't, it was a sign of a con man still trying to impress the lunatics in the audience. He's still going to make a mint after losing the nomination. He'll still be invited on Sunday talk shows. He'll still be treated as something more than what he is, a pariah. But his future isn't as rosy as it was. Being the frontrunner was the worst thing that ever happened to him.

  • T2 on December 19, 2011 9:35 AM:

    Paul was always a threat to win Iowa. And he might. But that will be the end for him, and I think he knows it. It just makes his name stick around longer. Notice you never see Ron Paul on MTP or any Talking Head show.
    I agree with Magoo above, Gingrich is in it for the ego trip and whatever money he can scam.

  • bluestatedon on December 19, 2011 9:38 AM:

    I'm with Slappy. Gingrich is in the same position that Herman Cain found himself: a grifter more interested in making money from books, speeches, and a Fox News gig than in actually holding office, who ends up leading the pack not because of his own brilliance but because all the other guys in front of him keep stepping on their own dicks (sorry Michele, you know what I mean...). It would simply not be possible for Newt and Callista to make their bi-monthly trip to Tiffany's and run up $500K tabs if he was in the Oval Office; the optics and PR would be horrible. Slappy is dead one in this: Newt's most comfortable in portraying himself as the brilliant outsider that can say, "I told you so!" without the burden of actually having to govern. He and Palin are birds of a feather.

  • Trollop on December 19, 2011 9:42 AM:

    It must be the radical judiciaries fault! Maybe the gay marriage there is weakening the conservative influence. It could be because every individual running is an obvious fool, liar and thief!

  • Trollop of spelling. on December 19, 2011 9:49 AM:

    Jewdishiary's? It's early here..

  • K Wilson on December 19, 2011 9:53 AM:

    Gingrich's collapse is self-inflicted too, but the mistakes weren't made in the past few weeks, but over a long and messy career. All that was necessary was for his opponents to bring them to the attention of the voters. Those who follow politics closely remember every permutation of Newtonian weirdness, but the average Iowa Republican has more important things to worry about - or did until they were reminded. Attacking Gingrich is easy and effective because he's given his opponents so much to work with.

  • Rabbler on December 19, 2011 9:55 AM:

    All this up & down theater is just a way for the Republican electorate to think that it is deliberating. The media is only too happy to support the illusion.

  • chi res on December 19, 2011 10:06 AM:

    The former Speaker didnít do anything in particular to derail his chances; he just ran into a buzzsaw he couldnít control

    Even with fourteen jillion national debates, non-stop political ads and a national teevee network devoted entirely to the republican POV, the thing that still decides presidential primaries, and most other local elections, is organization and boots on the ground.

    In Iowa, Paul has a lot; Romney, Bachmann and Perry have some; Newt has very little.

  • mrgavel on December 19, 2011 10:16 AM:

    I wouldn't be so sure about Paul not surviving into the round after Iowa. What he has going for him compared to the other more conservative candidates is that he doesn't come off as crazy as Bachman or Cain; is much more focused than Gingrich; and is not nearly as stupid as Perry. What he also has is a history of conservatism as opposed to Romney. If he wins Iowa and if he can get some quick money, he could make a run in the later primaries.

  • Danp on December 19, 2011 10:24 AM:

    What he [Ron Paul] has going for him compared to the other more conservative candidates is that he doesn't come off as crazy

    Seriously? What he has going for him is that no one in the media is paying attention to him. I suspect a lot of people didn't think Michelle Bachmann, Perry, Trump or Cain "came off as crazy" until they had the spotlight on them.

  • Roger the Cabin Boy on December 19, 2011 10:58 AM:

    Too much full-frontal Newtity for Iowa.

  • slappy magoo on December 19, 2011 11:11 AM:

    ------> Political Animal
    Blog
    December 19, 2011 8:40 AM Gingrich bounces off his Iowa ceiling

    By Steve Benen
    Facebook Twitter Digg Reddit StumbleUpon Delicious

    Remember, about 10 days ago, when Newt Gingrich was soaring in Iowa, had claimed the national lead, and looked well positioned to win three of the first four nominating contests?

    Well, forget it. The boom-and-bust pattern that has taken down so many Republican presidential candidates appears to be affecting the disgraced former House Speaker, too.

    We saw the first hints of trouble for the Gingrich campaign late last week, and overnight, a new survey from Public Policy Polling confirms that Iowa’s alleged frontrunner has quickly slipped from first to third.

    Newt Gingrich’s campaign is rapidly imploding, and Ron Paul has now taken the lead in Iowa. He’s at 23% to 20% for Mitt Romney, 14% for Gingrich, 10% each for Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, 4% for Jon Huntsman, and 2% for Gary Johnson.

    Gingrich has now seen a big drop in his Iowa standing two weeks in a row. His share of the vote has gone from 27% to 22% to 14%. And there’s been a large drop in his personal favorability numbers as well from +31 (62/31) to +12 (52/40) to now -1 (46/47). [emphasis added]

    What I find interesting about Gingrich’s precipitous fall is how different it is from the other former frontrunners. Bachmann, Perry, and Cain were each riding high for a short while, but were brought down by self-inflicted wounds — gaffes, awful debate performances, controversial policy positions, and in Cain’s case, sex scandals.

    Gingrich’s collapse is very different. The former Speaker didn’t do anything in particular to derail his chances; he just ran into a buzzsaw he couldn’t control — Gingrich, especially in Iowa, faced a barrage of attack ads, which he lacked the resources to respond to. This coincided with an aggressive push from the Republican establishment to derail Gingrich’s chances.

    This isn’t to say it’s too late for the former Speaker — the caucuses are two weeks from tomorrow — but it looks as if Gingrich hit his ceiling too early, and then quickly bounced off of it. With the PPP poll showing Santorum, Bachmann, and Perry all breaking into double digits in Iowa — the former Speaker is now closer to fourth place than second — it’s going to be very tough for Gingrich to reclaim the momentum.

    Ron Paul, meanwhile, now appears well positioned to actually win the Iowa caucuses. (Let that thought roll around in your brain for a few seconds.) Given Paul’s likely inability to seriously compete in the contests that follow Iowa, and the perception that he isn’t a credible threat for the nomination, Mitt Romney would gladly take this outcome — it would do significant harm to Gingrich’s viability, and make it that much more likely that Romney is the last Republican standing.
    Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.
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    c u n d gulag on December 19, 2011 8:49 AM:

    Well, when you're as full of hot air as Newt is, you're bound to hit the ceiling sooner rather than later.

    bad news on December 19, 2011 8:55 AM:

    Bummer.

    Still don't understand why no one but Huntsman goes after Romney. Baffling.

    James on December 19, 2011 9:00 AM:

    One would hope that the good people in Iowa took a dim view of the proposition that the solution to poverty was putting poor school children to work cleaning toilets after the school bell has rung. And I'd hope they will take a dim view of that other proposal to arrest judges and drag them before Congress whenever the make a ruling contrary to Mr. Gingrich's wishes.

    Danp on December 19, 2011 9:00 AM:

    And Ron Paul will win with the same 15-20 percent who envision a utopian world where treasure ships sail the ocean blue trading gold for exotic spices and cheap (read: slave) labor. That's the benefit of a media no-coverage candidate with an effective internet campaign.

    James M on December 19, 2011 9:04 AM:

    This is bad news for BO. The best scenario would have been for Gingrich to either win the nomination (We should be so lucky!) or to remain a strong candidate, tormenting Romney right up to the convention.

    Maybe I'm being insufferably naive, but the only reason Mitt looks like the best possible candidate is because everyone else in the field comes across as evil, stupid or a little from Column A and a little from Column B. Even then, we've seen how easy it is to trip Mitt up, how hollow a candidate he actually is, and how he really can't run from 2 simple truths, a: Mittcare = Obamacare and b: he's profited handsomely by the very financial practices that's put the nation on a fire sale. And when push comes to shove, he won't be able to run away from that. Sure, we have to worry about the slander that will be thrown Obama's way from the unlimited funds thanks to Citizens United, taking the "he an 'other'" meme and running cuh-RAY-zee with it. We also have to worry about Obama's own record, plenty to be proud of, but plenty to give bona fide lefties pause.

    But when it's time for the debates, there's no way, I repeat, NO WAY, I can see it going any other way except Mitt looking like a rich and out of touch boob against a populist President who at least says he wants the rich to pay "their fair share." It's why Newt never wanted the nomination in the first place.

  • Texas Aggie on December 19, 2011 12:26 PM:

    I'll go with K Wilson. The first thing that came to my mind was just that, Knut's self-inflicted wounds were inflicted a long time ago, and are just now being brought to the attention of the voters.

    Knut Gingrich is the ultimate Olie/Lena joke.

  • Ron Byers on December 19, 2011 12:38 PM:

    Slappy McGoo, why did you waste our time reposting Steve's post and the commnts. Do you have a point?

  • thebewilderness on December 19, 2011 2:46 PM:

    I think that declaring the children of poor people to all be criminals and therefore the government needs to step in and teach those children a work ethic was taken personally by a lot of people who would otherwise have supported him.
    Newt does the most damage to himself when he tells the truth about what he thinks of the people he wants to rule.

  • rrk1 on December 20, 2011 10:54 AM:

    The former Speaker didnít do anything in particular to derail his chances; he just ran into a buzzsaw he couldnít control.

    Hardly.

    Hasn't it occurred to anyone that the Newt wanted to sabotage his frontrunner status because he doesn't want the nomination? He didn't want to sink into the quicksand of oblivion (although I wish he would). Running a faux campaign was his claim to staying relevant, at least in his own mind. Making money by being a bloviating windbag, redundant I know, with non-existent academic credentials, as he has been, is the situation he really wants. It's so much more rewarding to the ego, not to mention financially.

    With his plastic Stetford wife spending his money faster than he can rake it in from the gullible who think he's smart, he doesn't need the grief of running a national campaign, let alone the responsibility of presidential office in the unlikely event he actually bamboozles the electorate into voting for him. He's demonstrated he can't work with people, and his only attributes are to be a hot-headed loose cannon and bomb thrower.

    So all the incendiary talk about child labor and turning the judiciary into a Nazi-era puppet system was calculated to bring down the house. His half-hearted explanations of the idiocy he proposes only made it worse, and unless he is a totally delusionary narcissist, which I could believe, his behavior has been deliberate and premeditated.

    As much as I dislike Obama, I want Gingrich to be the nominee. The best we can hope for out of the 2012 'election' is four more years of Obama's style of governing, much as that turns my stomach.

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