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The Newt Gingrich Moment46:07
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Newt is now leader of the pack in GOP polls. We’ll look again at Newt Gingrich and his come-from-behind campaign for the presidential nomination.

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With the latest report of a longtime extra-marital affair in Atlanta, Herman Cain is stumbling badly in polls of Republican voters. And the man who’s gaining from that stumble? Not Mitt Romney, but Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich, the man who brought the Republican Revolution to Congress in the ‘90s, then was rejected by his own party.

Newt Gingrich, the self-styled grand visionary who can turn harsh street fighter in an instant in debate. Newt Gingrich, the man with his own string of extra-marital affairs.

This hour, On Point: Newt now. In the GOP race, candidate Gingrich takes the lead.
-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Trip Gabriel, political reporter for the New York Times

Ellie Pearson, Gingrich campaign county co-captain in New Hampshire's Coos County

Rich Lowry, syndicated columnist and editor of National Review

Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner

Todd Purdum, national editor for Vanity Fair

Highlights

Newt Gingrich is now atop the GOP polls. But his legacy is complicated and controversial. Can he beat Obama and lead the nation?

“This is a moment certainly when a campaign feels very confident and is enjoying their momentum,” said Trip Gabriel, political reporter for the New York Times, who has been following the Gingrich campaign in South Carolina.

Gingrich’s game plan is to run strong in New Hampshire, do well in Iowa, must win South Carolina, and then win Florida en route to the nomination, Gabriel said.

Indeed, New Hampshire – a state that is nearly home turf for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney – will be a key battle ground. “I don’t feel a whole lot of momentum in this county yet, but we’re working on it,” said Ellie Pearson, the Gingrich campaign county co-captain in New Hampshire’s Coos County.

“I like the man and I think he definitely has good, bold ideas for the country. And the country definitely needs to be turned around,” she said.

“I suspect that this is more than just a flavor of the month, because it is hard to see who the next flavor of the month would be, as we’ve cycled through so many of these non-Romney candidates,” said Rich Lowry, syndicated columnist and editor of National Review. “This might finally be one with some staying power.”

“He’s very erratic,” Lowry said. “When he was Speaker he had a personal, psychic melt-down.” A key question, Lowry said, will be whether Gingrich is “even keeled” enough to hold the highest office in the land.

“[Gingrich] is very aware right now of the danger of blowing up,” said Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner. “He realizes that he’s got to behave differently in the spotlight than he has in the past.”

Another key question is how voters will respond to what political experts call candidate Newt’s ‘baggage,’ including his multiple marriages, his post-speaker political consulting work, and his stance on various issues that are at odds with conservative Republicans, including immigration.

“Gingrich collects controversy like a magnet collects iron filings,” said Todd Purdum, the national editor of Vanity Fair.

From Tom's Reading List

Vanity Fair "Newt Gingrich, now breathing down Mitt Romney’s neck in New Hampshire, sees himself as a “transformational figure”—the words are his own. Here are some words that no one who has worked with Gingrich has ever used: “plays well with others.”"

Politico "Like Ronald Reagan, Gingrich said, he ignored former staffers who put down his wife, because she is “the younger wife that would turn people off, etc., etc.” He said “volunteers are begging her to go out and do more meetings.”"

National Review "Romney was fine, although he wasn’t quite as fluid as usual and faded into the background more than in other debates. He won the exchanges with Huntsman on Afghanistan and Paul on defense spending, although not in a slam-dunk fashion. Overall, he didn’t hurt himself."

This program aired on November 30, 2011.

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