The Newtening Is Upon Us

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PELLA, IA - NOVEMBER 1:  Former Speaker of the House and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich smiles during a forum on manufacturing November 1, 2011 at Vermeer Manufacturing in Pella, Iowa. Five of the Republican candidates, excluding Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who declined to come, are slated to appear at the forum.   (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images)
Photo: Steve Pope/Getty Images

For a while now, the political press corps has been predicting the demise of Herman Cain, and further predicting that none other than Newt Gingrich would rise to take his place, just as Trump begat Bachmann, and Bachmann begat Perry, and Perry begat Cain. I dismissed the whole thing as too preposterous even for this Republican primary. Gingrich would appear to be disqualified on the hard-to-combine grounds of both being a left deviationist – here he is endorsing action to stop climate change with Nancy Pelosi; here he is savaging Paul Ryan’s budget – and of being such a right-wing loon the party couldn’t be mad enough to nominate him. (Here he is endorsing bizarre conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s father; many other examples could be found.)

But now there is actual evidence that the Gingrich resurrection may be upon us, courtesy of a PPP poll:

And if Cain does eventually implode, Newt Gingrich is well positioned to become the new Republican front runner. He's running ahead of Romney in both Ohio and Mississippi, and tied with him in the Iowa district. Beyond that he is the second choice of Cain's supporters in all three of the places we polled over the weekend. In Ohio he's the second choice of 38% of Cain voters to 19% for Romney and 12% for Perry.  In Mississippi he's the second choice of 28% of Cain voters to 19% for Perry and 17% for Romney.  And in Iowa SD-18 he's the second choice of 24% of Cain voters to 22% for Bachmann and 16% for Perry.

Gingrich has had a massive improvement in his image over the last six months. When we polled Ohio in May his favorability was +8 at 42/34.  Now it's improved by 30 points to +38 at 62/24. And he's seen an improvement in Mississippi as well where he was at +34 (58/24) when we polled in April and is now up to +41 (63/22). Newt is definitely rising and could really find himself in good shape if Cain's troubles continue.

I … I … I don’t even know what to say here. It has simply never occurred to me before today that there would be even the slightest chance of the Republican Party nominating Newt Gingrich – not even in the nineties, at the height of his powers, when such speculation was rampant. Parties don’t nominate people like that. You nominate a telegenic front man, not an erratic, overbearing, morally repulsive tub of goo like Gingrich.

Are there any actual Republican operatives, as opposed to hapless voting stiffs, who approve of this? Well, Former Bushie Jeffrey H. Anderson of the Weekly Standard is actually pining away for Newt:

Three weeks ago, Rasmussen’s poll of likely voters showed Speaker Newt Gingrich trailing President Barack Obama by a whopping 27 percentage points (51 to 24 percent) among independent voters. Now, Rasmussen shows, Obama’s lead over Gingrich has shrunk to just 6 points (41 to 35 percent) among independents. Obama also leads Gingrich by 6 points (44 to 38 percent) among all likely voters.

Rasmussen’s newfound evidence that Gingrich could well be able to compete against Obama will likely further boost the former speaker’s support among a GOP electorate that’s hungry for someone who can persuasively articulate conservative principles while winning the presidency.

It is probably time for me to stop making predictions of any kind about this race.