Dubuque: Newt Gingrich was riding high there, for a week or so. His poll numbers were great nationally, and in battleground states such as New Hampshire and Florida, he elbowed more credible contenders—and also Mitt Romney—aside.
There really was a week there when Gingrich was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.
But that’s all over now.
In the 2012 Republican race, everyone gets to be the front-runner for a week, and Gingrich has had his week.
Now, Gingrich is tumbling. Fast. The attacks ads paid for by Super PACS associated with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have surely played a part in the former speaker’s steep slide in the polls—he’s now running third, behind Ron Paul and Romney, in the Real Clear Politics survey of surveys from the past week. And is several polls he has fallen to low single digits, just above the man who might just finish ahead of Gingrich on January 3: Rick Santorum.
This is what happens when ideologues and partisans get serious about politics.
Despite the support and sympathy Gingrich has gotten from folks like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, his record was always going to disqualify him with grassroots conservatives and Republican stalwarts who want to win elections.
Gingrich plans to launch a forty-four-city bus tour of Iowa in order to grab as much free media and grassroots face time as he can for his under-financed campaign. But that will not renew his prospects.
When 2012 dawns, with the January 3 Iowa caucuses, he will be last year’s man.
Or, to be more precise, last decade’s man.
Here, then, are the top five reasons why Newt Gingrich will not be anything more than a footnote to the 2012 presidential race:
1. GINGRICH REACHED HIS SELL-BY DATE IN 1996: Born during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s third term, Gingrich would if elected next year assume the presidency on the cusp of his 70th birthday. And unlike the conservative movement’s favorite septuagenarian president, Ronald Reagan, Gingrich has been a political player for his entire adult life. Barack Obama was two years old when Gingrich went to work on his first national campaign.
There are natural trajectories for politicians. Gingrich’s had him running for president in 1996, as the dynamic conservative challenger to President Bill Clinton. That would have been a great race between a pair of similar Southerners—smart, ambitious rascals with plenty of skeletons in their closets but also with real differences regarding the direction of the nation—but Gingrich deferred to the party bosses (and their corporate overseers) who preferred the predictability of Bob Dole.
Gingrich blinked. He missed his chance.
The same thing happened to Mario Cuomo, who should have run in 1992.