The former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, comes to Harvard University Friday night to screen a movie. His campaign says he will also conduct a town-hall style meeting at Harvard.
Gingrich said he welcomes questions about his lucrative consulting contracts with mortgage backer Freddie Mac. The latest national Fox News poll, released this week, shows Gingrich now leading the Republican race for the nomination.
Newt In New Hampshire
On a recent campaign stop, Gingrich is telling an audience of Tea Partiers in Hampton how significant his ideas are.
"Go to newt.org, there’s a paper on re-balancing the judiciary, and I think it’s the boldest statement of taking on the judiciary since Lincoln’s first inaugural address," Gingrich says.
"I think that the opportunity we have is that there seems to be a lot of people who aren’t moving towards Romney."Andrew Hemingway, Gingrich's N.H. campaign director
The audience at the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC forum goes wild when Gingrich takes on President Obama.
"What do you see as the biggest constitutional failing of the Obama administration?" a moderator asks as the audience roars with laughter.
"Not understanding which country he’s president of," Gingrich replies to loud applause.
Gingrich's Rise In National Polls
Two national polls, one from Fox News, the other from Public Policy Polling, have Gingrich in the lead.
Here’s how the candidate himself explains his sudden rise: "I think this may be the most substantive campaign in modern times."
The national media love to talk about these surveys, but they don’t predict who’s going to win the nomination. Four years ago, Rudy Giuliani was leading in the national polls — he never won a single caucus or primary. What matters is what’s happening in the early states, like Iowa and New Hampshire. As the director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, Andy Smith closely follows the preferences of the state’s voters.
"National polls are really not predictive of what’s going on in New Hampshire, because there are real campaigns going on here," Smith says.
Active campaigns like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s and Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s. Both are ahead of Gingrich in the latest Bloomberg poll conducted here. Still, Smith says the national rise of Gingrich could have an indirect influence.
"I expect that Gingrich will get a lot of attention by voters in New Hampshire based on what he’s doing in national polls, and his numbers will probably bounce up in New Hampshire," Smith says.
Getting The N.H. Primary Vote
Smith points out that most likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters have yet to make up their minds. But that doesn’t mean that just anyone can take the state away from Romney this late in the game.
Mike Dennehy knows about taking New Hampshire. He was behind John McCain’s two primary victories in the state. He says this close to the primary (eight weeks), two things have to happen for any candidate to shake things up. First, Dennehy says, voters have to see someone do well in Iowa.
"They do decide at the last minute, but they also will need to see a candidate getting traction, certainly a week or two before the election," Dennehy says. "They’re not going to go in cold."
And, Dennehy says, New Hampshire voters want to see a candidate work for their vote.
"Anyone hoping to come close or even to topple Mitt Romney in New Hampshire is going to have to spend seven to 10 days here in the final seven weeks to really connect with voters and personally look eye to eye in these town hall settings and answer the tough questions," Dennehy says.
A Late Start
Gingrich is getting a late start. It wasn’t until late last month that he hired Twitter consultant and Tea Party leader Andrew Hemingway as his New Hampshire campaign director. Hemingway has been busy recruiting volunteers since then.
"You’re on board, buddy, welcome to the team," he tells someone on the other end of a phone conversation.
Hemingway is standing in the still-empty new office he has just opened on Elm Street, in Manchester. He believes that there is room for his candidate to do well here, no matter how daunting it looks for anyone trying to go up against Romney.
"This is a Romney stronghold, and he’s worked very hard in this state," Hemingway says. "I think that the opportunity we have is that there seems to be a lot of people who aren’t moving towards Romney."
But people who are not moving towards Romney are not necessarily ready to move to Gingrich yet. State Rep. Susan DeLemus, of Rochester, has been listening to Gingrich at the Tea Party forum in Hampton. She is impressed, but she also likes former Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania.
"Newt and Rick are both wonderful," DeLemus says. "It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough."
And this is the conundrum that each of the candidates trying to unify the opposition to Romney has faced: people who don’t like Romney have not rallied behind and stayed with one candidate. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain have risen like rockets and fizzled just as fast.
Hemingway recognizes that he does not have a lot of time to help Gingrich do well in New Hampshire.
"We don’t have the luxury of running a traditional campaign, and so we are forced to mold a grassroots type of a model, and that’s what we’re doing," Hemingway says.
Hemingway says Gingrich raised $1.4 million nationwide last week, 80 percent of that online. In New Hampshire, he plans to open at least three other offices. And Hemingway says Gingrich will be coming here often between now and the primary. Not that you’ll see lawn signs just yet. Those usually sprout in the last couple of weeks of the campaign, as people make up their minds.
This program aired on November 18, 2011.