Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's stock appears to have risen with Republican primary voters, judging by two national polls released Friday.
Gingrich, whose campaign was all but written off after a series of missteps this spring and a mass resignation of senior staff, is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance this autumn, driven by feisty debate performances where the former Speaker has made the media into a punching bag.
Witness the McClatchy-Marist poll that was published on Friday: 19 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents named Gingrich as their choice in a presidential candidate, surpassing Herman Cain at 17 percent, and trailing only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who stood at 23 percent.
The CBS News poll published Friday also had Gingrich tied for second, at 15 percent, with Romney. The pair trailed Cain (18 percent) among GOP primary voters, according to the poll. Gingrich displaced Cain as the top choice of Tea Party voters, as well.
If the numbers are to be believed, it would be a somewhat stunning turnaround for Gingrich, who bottomed out at three percent in summer Gallup tracking polls. His stumbles went beyond poor numbers, too. Virtually all of his senior staff resigned in early June, and his campaign was heavily in debt by the end of that month. A bungled campaign launch and controversies over lines of gaudy credit the former Speaker had opened with the jeweler Tiffany & Co. had only contributed to his political woes.
But in a Republican campaign cycle that's been defined by, if nothing else, the rotating series of candidates who have ridden a series of anti-Romney waves, only to eventually fade, it only seems natural to question whether Gingrich's surge is sustainable.
"Somebody is going to become the anti-Romney candidate. And it appears by process of elimination, it is Gingrich's turn at bat. He's got the intellect, experience, confidence and the chops. Why not Gingrich?" said veteran GOP strategist Mark McKinnon. "Gingrich has been through a lot of fires before. He's much more fireproof than the others. He's got potential to sustain momentum."
The opening is there for Gingrich; Texas Gov. Rick Perry's stumble this week at a debate only seemed to underscore the concerns about his debating skills that had already contributed to poor poll numbers. And while Cain is still riding high in the polls, internal polling cited Thursday by the Associated Press suggests that his numbers have begun to tumble in Iowa, amid a string of sexual harassment allegations against the former Godfather's Pizza CEO.
If nothing else, Gingrich has continued along his more unconventional, policy-driven path in hopes of re-emerging as a credible candidate. He's combined a series of policy proposals -- such as his new "Contract with America" -- along with debate performances where he's openly quarreled with moderators from the media to turn his campaign around.
"It's great to be back in contention, and I'm very grateful to the voters who are supporting me. And I think substance really mattered," he said on this morning's Early Show in response to the new numbers. "And I think people are looking for a serious potential president because they see the issues as being so very serious to their own lives."