Newt Gingrich On the Political Ascent: Poll Numbers Up and Vows to Demand Obama Debate Him Lincoln Douglas Style (UPDATED)

There is a new Republican “anti-Romney” political understudy waiting in the wings in case the currrent on-the-ascent-despite-a-scandal anti-Romney Herman Cain suffers the fate of Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. If Cain stumbles former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who has taken great pains to be supportive of Cain despite their political competition for the Oval Office — is clearly poised now to jump into that position.

After entering the race with great fanfare this election cycle, Gingrich displayed a series of political toe-stubbings that some qualified his campaign, political judgment, and reaction to tough questions as one of the worst run political campaigns ever. But in PR terms, increasingly, Cain seems to be vying for that title. Even so: Cain’s poll numbers and fundraising seem to be zooming amid the sexual harrassment allegations.

And Gingrich? He’s rising in the polls and has vowed that if he gets the nomination he’ll to follow Barack Obama around until Obama agrees to debate him in a long Lincoln-Douglas style debate — a novel idea. It will keep the kind of political confrontation many Americans love so much on the front burner and gaurentee lots of press. Forget that it is highly unlikely Obama or any Democrat would agree to a Republican running against them to in effect let themselves be bludgeoned into accepting their opponent’s specific form of debates. Usually debate format, conditions are negotiated by both sides.

On the other hand, this is the age when negotiation, consensus, aggregating diverse political interests, and compromise are on life support so perhaps this would be the new norm and the tradition of American debates from the JFK-Nixon debates would be DOA in the 21st century as well.

On the poll:

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has gained ground in the 2012 presidential campaign. He registered 12 percent support in an ABC News-Washington Post poll out this morning.

This is the former House speaker’s first time out of the single digits in the poll. He was polling at around 6 or 7 percent before.
“Any progress is good progress,” spokesman R.C. Hammond said. “What we’re looking to do is continually march toward the caucus and put forth ideas and solutions.”

The poll put Gingrich almost even with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was at 13 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stayed steady at 24 percent, and business executive Herman Cain saw an increase to 23 percent from 16 percent, despite his recent troubles.
The Gingrich campaign raised more than $1 million in October, its best fundraising month.

“We’re seeing steady growth and that’s important,” Hammond said. “We’ve got a growing base and we’re seeing three out of every four donors coming in is a new a person.”

The Gingrich campaign is investing in staff and infrastructure in Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire. Hammond said the campaign is seeing a large grassroots movement in South Carolina and it’s also focusing on the Hispanic vote in Florida.

One interesting note about those polled: When asked about changing their mind on a candidate, 45 percent said there is a good chance they’ll do so.

“Our goal is to make sure that the time for voters to latch onto Newt as their candidate will be when it’s time to vote and caucus,” Hammond said. “As long as we’re seeing steady progress, that means we’re on track, we’re not looking to have everyone on board by a certain date.”

On his idea to turn Obama accepting Gingrich’s form of debate into a point of a presidential campaign, requiring the submission of his Democratic opponent to his idea and conditions for debate:

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich promised on Friday evening in Iowa that if he wins his party’s nomination, he will follow President Obama around the country until Obama accepts a challenge to participate in Lincoln-Douglas style debates.

“I promise you, if you will help me on January 3, if I end up as the nominee, in my acceptance speech, if the president has not yet agreed, I will announce from that day forward for the rest of the campaign, the White House will be my scheduler,” Gingrich said. “And wherever the president appears, I will appear four hours later.”

Gingrich said he would challenge Obama to seven Lincoln-Douglas style debates lasting three hours each with no moderator and only a timekeeper. “I will concede that he can use a teleprompter,” Gingrich said.

According to Gingrich, his plan to follow Obama around the country is based on Abraham Lincoln’s strategy of giving a rebuttal speech to Stephen Douglas in the same place that Douglas had given a speech one day earlier during the 1858 Illinois Senate campaign.
“After about three weeks, Douglas figured out that the newspaper coverage was always Lincoln’s answer and not Douglas’s speech,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich predicted Obama would accept the debate challenge, in part because of wanting to preserve media coverage, but also out of ego.

“How can a Harvard Law Review editor, the greatest orator in the modern Democratic party, admit to being afraid to be on the same platform as a West Georgia college professor?” he asked.

The other question: what seven three hour political debates would do to the sale of insomnia pills in America?


ALSO WORTH NOTING

The Politico:

Gingrich’s call for seven, three-hour debates with President Obama excited the crowd more than anything all night. He said that he will follow the president around if he does not agree by the time Gingrich wins the nomination.

“From that date forward, for the rest of the campaign, the White House will be my scheduler,” he said. “And wherever the president appears, I will be four hours later.”

The reception was in marked contrast to Rick Perry, who’s been hoping to gain back his lead in Iowa. The Texas governor gave a well-crafted speech with lots of rehearsed one-liners, but he didn’t catch fire with the crowd in the dark convention hall. He described a “choice in the race” between the “tinkerers” – “those that support bailouts and oppose major tax reform” – and the “fundamental reformers.”

“Some want to reform Washington with a pair of tweezers,” he said, doubtlessly referring to Romney. “I’m for bringing a wrecking ball.”

Perry addressed “Newt” twice during his speech, as if asking for a point of reference on Washington. In criticizing the super committee, he said there have been about 20 committees in the last 30 years to talk about getting the debt under control. “What’s it been, Newt?” he wondered rhetorically.

Hot Air’s Tina Korbee:

It’s not hard to believe voters have begun to reconsider Gingrich. His scandal-plagued personal life is very much a part of his past, not present, and his statesmanlike presentation and long-established opinions cast a reassuring aura of consistency over his candidacy.

In the same poll, 45 percent of voters said they’re still apt to change their minds about a candidate — and 25 percent picked Gingrich as the winner of the Republican debates so far. Those are both positive signs for Gingrich, who, except for the early implosion of his campaign staff, as his advisers rushed away to persuade Rick Perry to run, hasn’t drawn much negative attention to himself throughout the primary season — and has even gradually begun to attract positive speculation.

But, on the subject of negative attention: Despite all he’s received this week, Herman Cain’s share of support in the ABC/WaPo poll still grew, from 16 percent to 23 percent. Whether that’s because GOP voters actually think he’d make a professional president or just want to show support in the face of a poorly reported (and subsequently poorly handled) scandal remains to be seen.

In the meantime, voters will see who handles in-depth policy questions better when Gingrich and Cain go head to head tomorrow in Houston.

UPDATES:
CBS News:

Don’t tell Newt Gingrich, but he’s not running against a general election campaign against President Obama just yet.
The former speaker of the House campaigns for president with the air of someone with a real shot at the Republican nomination, steadfastly declining to take shots at his GOP rivals on the stump, lobbing criticism at the White House and describing for audiences what his first presidential press conference would be like.

Until recently, it all would have been written off in political circles as the work of the overly active imagination of a famously self-confident politician. But lately, Gingrich has reason to have a little more swagger in his step. His campaign, once stuck at the back of the pack, is experiencing a revival thanks to some sharp debate performances, an uptick in his once anemic fundraising, and the inability of candidates to go the distance.

With businessman Herman Cain’s juggernaut stopped cold by an unfolding sexual harassment scandal, Gingrich is getting a second look from social conservatives and tea party supporters who long to get behind anyone but former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the top-tier candidate who continues to disappoint them on the ideological purity test.

The former speaker, who led Republicans to congressional victories in the mid-1990s, is also benefitting from a dwindling GOP field as top-choice alternatives to Romney self-destruct: First, tea party darling Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, then deep-pocketed Texas Gov. Rick Perry and finally it seems, the charismatic Cain.

The Washington Post’s Ed Rogers:

As we move through the Cinderella cycle of campaign 2012, where someone is trying to make the slipper fit, watch for Newt Gingrich to grasp the magical shoe next. His grip won’t be that strong, but he has some important qualities that will warrant another look. I won’t say a new look, because every Republican has looked at the former speaker many times over the years.

Gingrich has one big thing going for him. He’s a fresh thinker and possesses such clarity of thought and compelling logic that he can be almost hypnotic. When you listen to Gingrich, you think you might actually learn something. But when Newt talks, you have to have thick skin, because you must be willing to be talked down to, and you will be challenged to think big.

When I was an advisor to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, I sometimes accompanied him to events where the leader and the speaker would both give remarks. Lott would get up and give a fine presentation for 15 or 20 minutes. Gingrich would then proceed to the podium and, with no notes, mesmerize the crowd for 50 minutes. The cooks would come out of the kitchen, and the banquet staff would all freeze to listen. The next day, I’d tell Lott that the speaker had a plan for the year 2100, but that he had a plan for later that afternoon. We had a gap in our planning.

As with all things, men of a certain age suffer diminished capabilities, but Gingrich still has some of the old magic left. The upcoming congested debate schedule will play to his strengths.

But Gingrich probably has a ceiling. He can never get 50 percent of any group. Actually, he shouldn’t be running for president. We should make him an oracle. He should grow out his hair, wear a robe, and wander the globe dispensing wisdom. Sort of a Gandolf the White look and role.

It’s easy to see how Gingrich gets another look, but hard to see where he wins a caucus or primary. For instance, he probably couldn’t win state-wide in Georgia.

Atlanta Constitution:

Newt Gingrich predicts the race for the GOP nomination will come down to two weary candidates: “This will end up being Mitt and Newt.”
Gingrich, the former Georgia congressman and speaker of the U.S. House, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that his campaign is now where it needs to be and that by December he’ll have the resources to compete head to head with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“And Romney is the real competitor,” Gingrich said in his Buckhead campaign headquarters, where he rallied two dozen volunteers before heading to Duluth for a town hall meeting sponsored by the 7th District Republican Party.

An obviously upbeat Gingrich said he survived June and July, which he called the darkest two months of his 53-year political career, and is poised to make a serious run at the nomination.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a candidate many pundits and news outlets had declared out of the race earlier this year. And while polls have shown Gingrich inching into sole possession of third place — including a Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday that had him distancing himself from fourth-place Rick Perry — he’s still at least 10-12 percentage points behind Romney and Atlanta resident Herman Cain.

The Daily Beast’s Jill Lawrence:

Is there a phrase that means the opposite of Dream Team? It would come in handy to describe the upcoming face-off between Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain. The Texas showdown has been advertised as a revival of the exalted Lincoln-Douglas debates, but a better description at this point might be What Women Don’t Want.

The audience at the event, a fundraiser for the Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC at the Woodlands Resort & Conference Center near Houston, won’t be hearing about three women’s sexual-harassment allegations against Cain. “It’s going to be totally focused on economic issues. It will not be at all sidetracked by that kind of thing,” says Suzanne Guggenheim, cofounder of the Tea Party group.

The hosts promise “a substantive discussion of the most pressing issues facing America today.” But imagine if those in the audience had thought clouds above their heads. Don’t think about elephants, the old joke goes, and then of course all you can think about are elephants—in this case the allegations engulfing Cain and the checkered marital history that dogs Gingrich…

….Gingrich had affairs during his first two marriages and is now married to his third wife, a former House staffer he dated while leading the impeachment drive against Clinton. Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg says Gingrich has to some degree “weathered the storm on his infidelities. It’s been in the press a long time, he’s done his mea culpas.” Cain’s woman problem, by contrast, is a dilemma right now for the Republican Party—and one the Texas debate exacerbates. “You don’t want to continue to build up Cain, which is what it does,” Greenberg says.

With the general election looming, the last thing the party needs is a showcase for a pair of candidates who could alienate female voters. Women already seem to be wary of the GOP. Asked in a new Quinnipiac poll whom they’d vote for if House elections were held today, 46 percent of women said they’d choose the Democrat and 31 percent picked the Republican. More than half of women chose President Obama in a series of hypothetical matchups against Cain, Gingrich, and Rick Perry. Gingrich won 34 percent of women to Obama’s 54 percent; Cain did slightly better at 37 percent to Obama’s 52 percent.

The Daily O’Collegian:

Newt Gingrich is the Republican dark horse of the presidential election. He is not in the lead on the Republican ticket, like Mitt Romney or Herman Cain, but he is a polarizing media and political personality that should not be underestimated. In a political arena that has shifted less in President Obama’s favor, the political climate in the United States has progressed toward the potential and likely election of a Republican candidate as president. According to information in Rasmussen Reports for Oct. 24, the inquiry was posed to respondents as to which political side they would vote for in their Congressional district if the election was held today. The poll favored the respondents voting Republican with 44 percent and Democrat at 36 percent. Also, Rasmussen’s daily Presidential Tracking Poll has President Obama at a severe disadvantage, with a 19 percent approval rating.

The time is now for a Republican, even a non-front runner to take advantage of the political deficiencies of the Obama administration. Newt Gingrich, unlike President Obama, has a career steeped in domestic politics. As Speaker of the House in 1994, Gingrich established the Contract for America that brought about a Republican turnover in the House that had not occurred in forty years in the United States. Gingrich may not have received the Nobel Peace Prize like President Obama, but instead garnered the attention of Time Magazine, becoming Man of the Year in 1995 for his leadership abilities.

American Spectator:

On Wednesday, for the first time since Herman Cain’s presidential candidacy began gaining traction in September, Newt Gingrich’s betting odds of earning the Republican nomination to run for the presidency have surpassed Cain’s.

Gingrich is trading around 7 percent while Cain hovers near 5 percent. A week ago, before the Cain sexual harassment charges surfaced, the numbers were roughly reversed, with Cain close to 8 percent and Gingrich around 3.5 percent. (For those unfamiliar with Intrade.com, the odds are not set by bookies; instead the site works as an exchange with the prices based on where market participants are willing to buy and sell.)

During this week of turmoil, Mitt Romney’s betting odds have barely changed, going from about 69 percent to 70 percent, while Rick Perry’s odds have actually dropped by almost two percent, from about 12.5 percent to 10.5 percent.
In short, while conventional wisdom is what Romney is the main beneficiary of the chaos surrounding Herman Cain, betting odds tell a different story: the big winner, at least for one week, is Newt Gingrich.

The Weekly Standard:

During the past three weeks, the Republican presidential candidates have been involved in their most contentious debate — which included their most substantial exchange on health care — and Herman Cain has struggled on two fronts (explaining his position on abortion and responding to claims of impropriety). Now, the latest Rasmussen poll of likely Republican voters shows that, over that 3-week span, Newt Gingrich has gained the most ground, while Mitt Romney has lost the most ground.

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  • JSpencer

    While I’m not adverse to an L/D style debate, Newt ain’t gonna see one. Does every prizefighting contender get a shot at the champ? That right has to be earned.

  • DaGoat

    Obama/Gingrich would actually be a pretty good debate but JSpencer is right, it ain’t gonna happen. And Gingrich isn’t going to be the nominee regardless of his jump in the polls.

  • John Johnson

    Gingrich would whip anyone’s ass that I can think of right now in this type of debate. Say what you want to about his personal life, and, what many would call, radical views, but he is the smartest guy from top to bottom on just about any issue you want to throw at him.

  • slamfu

    Yea I’ll say this, Obama would wipe the floor with Gingrich in a debate. Johnson you seriously think Newt would come out on top when he can’t even set himself apart from the GOP primary rabble? Gimme a break. Gingrich is one of the original folks who took the GOP from a serious party to one of anti-intellectualism and his public statements back that up. He would serve merely to highlight to the general electorate why not to vote GOP.

  • DaGoat

    I am no Gingrich fan, but Obama would not “wipe the floor” with him. I actually think Gingrich would hold his own very well in a debate. He’s just not very electable which is a whole different thing.

  • The_Ohioan

    Lincoln? Douglas? Really?!?! And Newt sees himself as Lincolnesque?

    This is why the Republican party is in such trouble. Once again, where are the adults? We’ve got BIG PROBLEMS and they send Lilliputians to the election circuit, or circus – whatever.

  • sentry

    Gingrich could and can annihilate Obama, even if his groupies-even-now(!) would believe the opposite(!).

    Please don’t forget the concepts of both absolute and relative. Is Gingrich rising or are the leaders (Cain, Romney) and the rest of the field, generally, falling? They’re considered real lightweights (or in Romney’s case, unappealing) while Gingrich is obviously not in the areas that include both policy and yes, debating.

  • sentry

    Another user, “DaGoat,” wrote:

    “I actually think Gingrich would hold his own very well in a debate. He’s just not very electable which is a whole different thing.”

    With the GOP right now, it’s Musical Candidates, Anyone But Romney.

    The desperation is so apparent and effectively palpable it’s a true shame Jeb Bush didn’t choose 2012 rather than 2016 for a first run at the White House. Presumably there still are wacko Obama groupies out there and it’s better for the GOP to stand back and give Obama and other Democrats their chance to make things even worse before 2016, which they likely will do.

  • ShannonLeee

    Gingrich is a schooled politician with great debating skills, but as it has been already noted….he is unelectable.

    His rise in the polls has more to do with Cain falling and people needing somewhere to run than it does Newt’s campaign.

  • John Johnson

    Slamfu…have you watched all the debates? Gingrich is sharp…very, very sharp on all issues. He has ready answers that are in his head and don’t take long to hit the tip of his tongue. His past is one thing; how he debates is another. Obama, even after 3 years in office, doesn’t have the stored knowledge that Newt has. Newt does not need a teleprompter.

  • jonas

    Newt is by Far the smartest and most qualified candidate on either side of the aisle, Period! He just out debates ev1 with common sense and logic and real life solutions.

    Newt would Shred Oblamo in ANY kind of debate setting!

    I use to think Paul was pretty good on the domestic problems and solutions. But after hearing his foreign policy stance, I realize what a real Kook,Ron Paul truly is.

    I’ll take Newt by far and then Cain.

    And screw and turn Off the one-sided controlled and lying main stream media and talk shows.They are all owned and tied up in the Bilderberg Group agendas anyways for The One World Order crap, by any means neccessary,as they groom their bought and paid for minions in the White House and media, shows etc.

    Oblamo, Romney and Perry are all part or are current invitees of the Bilderberg Group and its agendas.Keep away from all of them, they DO NOT have your best interests in mind at all, only theirs! Thats why we are secretly over in Africa now…its all staged and planned and you just will hear nothing on that until its too late.