With about four weeks until the first Republican presidential nominating contest, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged to the lead in Iowa and has climbed nearly 20 percentage points in New Hampshire since October, according to new NBC News-Marist polls.
The New York Daily News says of Gingrich vs. Romney: “These days [Gingrich is] on his best behavior, trying to exorcise his rep as CEO of the ready-aim-fire school of political oratory. But as a GOP mandarin worried, ‘You never know when Newt will pull the pin on that hand grenade he keeps in his suit pocket. But you know he will.’ Like Gingrich, Romney must prove the naysayers wrong. Whoever does the better job of curbing his least appetizing tendencies will be tapped to make the case they both fervently share — that Barack Obama is a failed President.”
George Will, per Political Wire, on Romney: "Obama is running as Harry Truman did in 1948, against Congress, but Republicans need not supply the real key to Truman's success -- Tom Dewey. Confident that Truman was unelectable, Republicans nominated New York's chilly governor, whose virtues of experience and steadiness were vitiated by one fact: Voters disliked him. Before settling for Romney, conservatives should reconsider two candidates who stumbled early on" – Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman.
BACHMANN: “The Des Moines Register on a nice endorsement from the influential founder of the socially-conservatives Eagle Forum,” GOP 12 writes, quoting the Register: “Social conservative Phyllis Schlafly has endorsed Michele Bachmann for president and is urging Iowans to caucus for her.”
By the way, we break down what exactly suspending a campaign means.
Cain may have suspended his campaign, but as the New York Post writes, “confirming that his White House bid is effectively over, Cain also promised a presidential endorsement ‘in the near future’ and his campaign reportedly began reaching out to some of his former rivals before his announcement.”
GINGRICH: He’s out with his first ad, a gauzy video full of string music and overtures about America’s greatness.
As NBC’s Brooke Brower points out the ad’s music sounds an awful lot like the theme from the movie Rudy.
The New York Times: “Surging in polls is one thing. But as Newt Gingrich seeks to turn his impressive performance in surveys into votes, he is scrambling madly to build the kind of organization that Mitt Romney has methodically put in place for a year, one that will let him compete through all 50 contests, often in multiple states at once.”
The anti-Newt… Barney Frank. On ABC, per the Boston Globe: “Newt is the Wizard of Oz. There’s nothing there. He’s ginned up this whole big thing. … He would be a very weak candidate, he would lose heavily and a lot of Democrats would win races.” And: “Romney is understandably seen as insufficiently conservative, because Mitt is insufficiently anything if you believe in principles.”
Of the Des Moines Register poll, the Boston Globe writes that it “illustrates the resurgence of Gingrich, who lost much of his staff this summer and whose campaign went into debt. … Meanwhile, Romney’s support dropped from 22 percent in October. But one positive note for Romney is that voters still view him as the most able to beat President Obama.”
“Newt Gingrich ‘is working more aggressively than any of his competitors to organize activists and volunteers" ahead of the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary, "essentially pinning his candidacy on a state filled with Christian conservatives,’ the AP reports,” per Political Wire.
Gingrich went to Staten Island Saturday and “the crowd ate up his speech, frequently breaking into chants of ‘Newt, Newt, Newt,’” the New York Daily News reports.
HUNTSMAN: The Hill wonders if Jon Huntsman could play spoiler for Mitt Romney in the Granite State. Huntsman got 9% in the NBC/Marist poll of New Hampshire voters out Sunday. Romney pulled 39% to Gingrich’s 23%.
PAUL: Paul released another TV ad that will run on broadcast and cable in Iowa and New Hampshire. The ad, titled "Big Dog," calls Paul’s Republican rivals “sorry politicians” in their plan to reduce the deficit, saying they have “lots of bark, but when it’s show time, whimpering like Shih Tzu's.”
SANTORUM: Political Wire notes: “Ben Smith highlights the ‘saddest statistic’ from Des Moines Register poll which asked, ‘Which of the candidates have you seen in person before the caucuses?’ ‘Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum got 12%. Santorum has run a traditional, all-in Iowa campaign, practically moving to the state and visiting each of its counties. Romney has been there four times this year.’”
ROMNEY: NBC's Jo Ling Kent reports that Mitt Romney today announced the endorsements of New Hampshire Sheriffs Wayne Estes (R-Strafford County) and Gerald Marcou (R-Coos County).
“The timing of Mr. Gingrich’s rise, just a month before the nomination voting starts, and his track record in national Republican politics make his a graver threat than earlier surges by Representative Michele Bachmann, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Herman Cain. That’s clear from Mr. Romney’s allusions to Mr. Gingrich, a former House speaker, as a ‘lifelong politician,’ an ‘insider’ and a ‘lobbyist’ — with more probably to come in debates and perhaps television advertisements,” John Harwood writes in the New York Times. “‘Mitt likes to say he served in government but didn’t inhale,’ said one of his aides, Eric Fehrnstrom. ‘Newt has taken large inhalations of Washington air.’” (Few believed the first guy who said that either.)
The Romney campaign says no to Lincoln-Douglas debates with Gingrich.
The New York Times got behind-the-scenes access to a FOX forum on Saturday. “Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, was the last to arrive at the Fox News offices in Midtown Manhattan. He came in with his wife, Ann, and a smattering of aides and travel staff, and they quickly settled into a small conference room near the 12th-floor studio. Spotting the reporter, Mr. Romney’s aides sprang into action, asking where he worked and what he was doing there, and then insisting that he not physically approach Mr. Romney before or after he was questioned on television by the attorneys general and Mr. Huckabee. The request was reiterated to executives at Fox News.”