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Posted by on Dec 16, 2011 in Politics | 14 comments

Reverse Newtmentum: What to Make of Gingrich’s Fall in the Polls?

What goes up, must come down. (Even science-denying Republicans can’t refute Newton. Well, they can, but it just makes them look like idiots.)

And The Newt is, apparently, coming down. Nate Silver:

The polling data I’ve seen over the past two or three days suggests that Newt Gingrich’s momentum has stopped — and has probably reversed itself.

The most troubling numbers for Mr. Gingrich are in Iowa, where three recent polls show that his lead — which had been in double-digits just a week ago — has all but evaporated. One poll, in fact, from Rasmussen Reports, now shows him trailing Mitt Romney. The other two do not show gains for Mr. Romney, but do have Mr. Gingrich essentially tied with Ron Paul.

Honestly, I have no idea what to make of this anymore. Indeed, looking back over the Republican race so far, it’s clear that making any sort of prediction was an act of folly. (It’ll be Romney… no, Bachmann… no, Perry… no, Romney… no… well, you know the rest.) And it’s been utterly futile trying to sort through the madness.

But it seemed that Newt, after months of running a seemingly pointless campaign, was in the right place at the right time. With no one else left to challenge Romney and unite the right against him (other than Ron Paul, who has his ardent followers but no chance of actually winning the nomination), it seemed that many Republicans were willing to give Gingrich a shot, if only by default. And so he surged up the polls, particularly after Cain dropped out, much to many people’s surprise. And with so little time left before voting begins, it seemed that he might just be able to sustain his newfound popularity at least through the early states.

But now, this.

What are we to make of it?

I don’t think he’s done. While his numbers are falling, some decline was inevitable as people got to know him better (and found things they didn’t like), as his rivals turned their fire on him as the frontrunner (negativity came first from Paul, but Romney has picked up the attack in recent days), as his electability began to be called into question, and as the Republican elite/establishment (whatever you want to call it) began to panic over the inevitable disaster of Gingrich as the nominee, with both politicians (e.g., Pete King, Chris Christie) and pundits (e.g., Noonan, Will, Brooks, Gerson, Coulter, etc.) going on the anti-Newt offensive.

So while one way to look at it is that he’s declining, another is that he’s just levelling off at a more reasonable level of support, some of the early irrational enthusiasm wiped away.

Which is to say, he can still win Iowa, still run a strong second in New Hampshire, and still win South Carolina and Florida. If anything, his problem is not his poll numbers but his on-the-ground, get-out-the-vote campaigns, which were late getting going because he wasn’t really a serious candidate until just recently. So it’s possible he’ll end up underperforming relative to expectations simply because of a lack of organization (and, relatively speaking, a lack of money). But maybe not. He’s still the most viable non-Romney option the Republicans have, and we all know Republicans really don’t want Romney as their nominee (other than some in the elite and those worried primarily about electability, and so certainly not the base, not most primary voters).

Look, we may well be witnessing “The Un-Newtening,” as Jon Chait put it the other day (though a sudden influx of money may mean “The Re-Newtening“). I’m not sure. I’m not sure of anything when it comes to the ongoing craziness of the Republican race to challenge President Obama. For all I know, Chris Christie will be anointed the nominee at a brokered convention next year. I just don’t think we can count out The Newt quite yet.

(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)

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  • dduck

    So the apple shaped candidate is going back up to the brainy but brash branch.

  • StockBoyLA

    Naturally the Republicans are trying to find someone to beat Obama. Since the Republicans can’t find anyone good enough, perhaps that means that Obama really is the best man for the job, despite some of his actions while in office.

  • “other than Ron Paul, who has … no chance of actually winning the nomination”

    Of course, how could you believe that he could when all he has on his side are the voters? Nobody listens to those polls anyway.

  • bluebelle

    I do think he’s done. I think no one in the GOP establishment ever thought he’d be a threat to win the nomination. When Cain pulled out Gingrich picked up most of his support- but he still didn’t have most of the establishment Republicans behind him.

    In the last few weeks they started realizing that ol’ Newt could actually win this thing, so they started coming out for Romney in full force, while making critical statements about Gingrich.

    I’m almost sure that Romney will end up the nominee by default as the party bigwigs realize that Newt would jeoparize their chances of taking back the White House.

  • dduck

    Stock, please note that incumbents usually win:
    “Since the end of World War II three incumbent presidents were turned out of office–Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush. A fourth, George W. Bush survived a very close call–notable because, historically, incumbent presidents are either defeated or they are reelected by comfortable margins as opposed to a squeaker as was the case with Bush in 2004.”
    Plus Bush I probably would have won if Perot didn’t upset his race.
    With the incumbent advantage in mind, perhaps other candidates decided not to enter the race, even perhaps a female democrat.

  • JSpencer

    “And it’s been utterly futile trying to sort through the madness.”

    My condolences, but I wouldn’t waste much time trying to make sense out of today’s republicans. Agreed, Gingrich is probably going the way of the other would-be saviours (his ego will be tailing along later). Maybe Ron Paul will be the next flash in the pan, but he’ll never be the nominee. R’s will probably need to get used to seeing Romney around for awhile… but only til the election is over.

  • merkin

    It is difficult to maintain any focus on on all of this as the Republican party attempts to nominate a candidate who is not tainted by even a hint of moderation.

    I actually believe that they and the country would be better off if they did indeed nominate a real moderate, if there are any left in the party.

  • dduck

    Tom Coburn, comes to mind…………

  • DaGoat

    Indeed, looking back over the Republican race so far, it’s clear that making any sort of prediction was an act of folly.

    On the contrary, for anyone who predicted Romney would be the eventual candidate (like me and a whole bunch of others) it has not been folly. Actually anyone paying attention to the rise and fall of the loonies Trump, Bachmann, Perry and Cain could have easily predicted the rise and fall of the loony Gingrich. The only thing different for Gingrich was his rise so close to the Iowa caucus.

    ProfElwood on Ron Paul I just don’t see him expanding his base enough to get the nomination. He’s had a little bit of a bump but has been essentially plateaud for some time.

  • bluebelle

    Romney is the new Bob Dole- good enough to get the nomination by default but whose party support is too tepid to elect.

  • @DDuck
    It’s one thing to say that someone is a long shot, but quite another to keep repeating that he can’t win. He’s outlasted all the shooting stars, and is fighting with Romney for 2nd place, while 1st place Gingrich is falling. One of the persistent criticisms has always been the “but you can’t win” line. What happens if he does start winning?

    And as always, it helps to keep in mind what the situation was 4 years ago:

    2008 GOP Iowa Caucus on December 16, 2007

    Huckabee 34.0 (falling)
    Romney 23.3 (rebounding)
    Giuliani 9.8 (rebounding)
    Thompson 9.5 (stable)
    McCain 5.8 (long, slow decline)
    Paul 5.7 (slowly rising)

  • dduck

    Prof, My main point was that incumbents have an enormous advantage (see the site) and Obama’s campaign started on the 500th day of his first term and he has collected a $1billion while the Reps funds are split up among the candidates. And in addition, no Dem primary to use up time, resources, message and MONEY.
    BTW: I didn’t say anything about RP.

  • bluebelle

    Prof. Elwood– how do you think Paul would fare with AIPAC and its supporters in the GOP?

  • @DDuck
    Sorry, that was meant for DaGoat.I got my animals mixed up.

    Well, considering that the Republican Jewish Coalition excluded him from the debate to suppress his views, I’d say “poorly”.

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