WASHINGTON — The Republican primary has yet another flavor of the month: Newt Gingrich. Here we go again, as the one-hit ’90’s R&B classic goes. Gingrich now joins a long line of Republican presidential wannabes itching for a ticket to the White House. But, questions loom after so many one-hit campaign wonders like that Portrait song in the prior sentence: Will Newt last?
At the moment, he seems invincible. Clearly, the former House speaker — one of the most infamous and troubled politicians in modern American political history — is experiencing a surge unlike any other in the crowded GOP primary circus. Around Labor Day, the millionaire, dome-of-white hair pol with a penchant for writing revisionist history was deep in the darkest depths of Republican polling at a 4.5 percent average.
Folks had written Newt off in early June when his senior campaign staff quit en masse as he vacationed on the Mediterranean with wife Callista. The impression was that Gingrich could barely manage his campaign — what makes anyone think he could manage a whole country?
Despite the near fatal blow to his presidential prospects, the speaker kept his cool. “The reality of politics is if you have a good enough leader who is positive enough, they can ignore the other candidates,” Newt boasted during an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan. “[T]hey can create a positive majority around a positive set of solutions, and let the other candidate worry about me."
But, a string of masterful tactical moves ended up catapulting Newt to the top. For one, there were extremely successful debate performances in which the real-life embodiment of “Megamind” was able to showcase his superior Republican intelligence. The GOP primary electorate became enamored with the former speaker as he repeatedly and comfortably outsmarted his competitors with brilliant catch phrases and talking points publicly baked as innovative ideas.
Newt, once a career congressman and savvy legislator who bum rushed his way into speakership, was now the beloved rabble-rousing outsider condemning tainted political insiders. He stood out from the pack, from the flip-flopping former Massachusetts governor to a dubious Minnesota congresswoman and former IRS attorney posing as the federal government’s worst nightmare — while on a federal government paycheck.
The other, critical tipping point in Gingrich’s resurgence: Herman Cain.
Cain and Gingrich are not exactly inseparable, but the two Georgia old boys — one Black, the other white — have been known to reserve enormous amounts of respect for one another. Gingrich is near-idolized by the insurgent Black Republican now as disgraced as smashed gum on a sidewalk. Returning the favor was an equally ebullient and red-faced Newt, suggesting the two get together for a Texas Tea Party “Lincoln–Douglass” style debate, a friendly “chat” to discuss the nation’s ills.
What transpired was a turning point in which Gingrich played Cain in a slick tactical Yoda-move that left the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO still giddy while observers furiously scratched for an answer. Why would Cain, clearly not the sharpest policy tool in anyone’s garage, agree to a “debate” with Gingrich?
As Cain imploded shortly thereafter, it was Gingrich standing on the sidelines as the biggest beneficiary of Herman’s demise. Not only will he absorb Cain’s polling numbers, but he’ll also get a chance to tap Cain’s fundraising machine.
But, the debate that played the Cain was symbolic of Gingrich’s enduring relationship with Black Republicans, many of whom seem to be about the only Black people on the planet who love the racially-charged ex-congressman.
Many Black Republicans have now clearly shifted away from Cain and are rooting loudly for Newt.
While Gingrich outfits tailor made racial missives, labeling the first Black commander-in-chief as the “food stamp president,” there is a small, politically disgruntled, yet merry band of Black Republicans who dig the speaker’s style. For some, it’s his boldness and holds-no-punches style attracting the perpetually bombastic Republicans of color, known for constantly disparaging their African-American brethren as “brainwashed” sheep on the “Democrat plantation.”
“Some Black Republicans, certainly not all, but a growing number are supporting Newt Gingrich because they believe Newt is the only candidate left standing who can beat Obama and lead the country out of this mess,” says Crystal Wright, a well-known Black conservative commentator and founder of ConservativeBlackChick.com. Wright, not one to shy away from her core Republican value system, believes that’s one of Gingrich’s strengths. “These same Black conservatives don't believe Romney has the passion or strength for the job of POTUS, he's too busy trying to be perfect. Like white Republicans, Black Republicans relish the idea of Newt debating one on one with Obama cause they know Newt will eat him alive.”
It’s not just respect keeping Newt’s profile larger than life amongst Black Republican rank and file: it’s also Newt’s longtime practice of identifying Black political talent and putting it to work for his political empire. Although Newt’s public profile paints the portrait of a man racially challenged, his private deeds show another picture: a skillful political boss who has created a vast network of minority Republican operatives who credit the speaker with giving them a chance when no one else would.
That’s paid dividends for the former Speaker, who rewards loyalty with job opportunities and a solid network. Former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, once an obscure, lone chairman of the Prince George’s County GOP (a majority Black county dominated by Democrats), found himself elevated to head of Gingrich’s powerful GOPAC political action committee. That move is what groomed Steele into Maryland’s first Black Lt. Gov. then his unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2006 — all ending up into his short tenure as RNC Chair a few years later.
Wright is more candid. “Gingrich has lots of minorities, including Blacks, working on his staff and volunteering which makes him appealing to Black conservatives like myself.”
“Unlike Romney,” she wryly adds.
Another one of Newt’s most loyal followers is former spokesperson, Princella Smith. She’s already helping raise both funds and support for the Speaker — all the way from China, ironically, for a year while on a policy excursion. Smith acknowledges Newt as both “mentor and friend,” citing him as one of the reasons she’s found opportunities in politics — including a failed attempt at capturing an open Congressional seat in Arkansas.
And Smith is as certain as the sky is blue that Newt will definitely win the White House.
“Newt should never ever be underestimated,” writes Smith from China. “There is a reason that Newt is the only candidate who hasn’t been openly criticized by the rest of the GOP field and why several of them publicly stated that he’d be their choice for Vice President. There is a deep reverence for his intellect. They know that he’s the ‘GOP godfather.’ Most political figures, whether by election or as insider staffers, are either policy wonks or savvy strategists. Newt is a very rare combination of both.”
Meanwhile, Newt is blowing up the polls. And, obviously, Herman Cain’s exit has been a big help to the former House speaker, who is reportedly struggling to keep pace with the newfound popularity. So let’s take a look at what all the fuss is about.
CNN/Time polls have Gingrich leading in most of the first four GOP primary states — which is problematic for Mitt Romney.
Gingrich is 33 percent in Iowa, Romney 20 percent, Ron Paul 17 percent, Rick Perry 9 percent, Michelle Bachmann 7 percent, Rick Santorum 5 percent, John Huntsman 1 percent. He’s 26 percent in New Hampshire against Romney’s 35 percent — Ron Paul is at 17 percent again.
There’s Gingrich, though, at 43 percent in South Carolina (Romney might as well forget about this Southern state while at 20 percent) and in Florida, Gingrich is at 48 percent while Romney is 25 percent.
The latest Farleigh Dickenson poll has Newt nationally at 36 percent at Romney’s 23 percent.
Economist/YouGov shows Newt with 31 percent to Romney’s 15 percent — interestingly enough, Paul is at 11 percent. Gallup Daily Tracking puts out similar numbers, with Gingrich at 37 percent and Romney at 22 percent. The pre-Iowa caucus New York Times–CBS News poll has Gingrich at 31 percent again, blasting Romney who is at 17 percent and — Look here: Paul at 16 percent.
Average it all out through the RealClearPolitics poll aggregator at Gingrich has a 10 point lead over Romney nationally — 31 percent to 20.5 percent.
We Ask America poll’s Iowa and puts the former Speaker at 30 percent with Mitt Romney at 16 percent.
The South Carolina Winthrop University poll shows Newt murdering folks at 38 percent against Romney’s 22 percent. Note: since 1980, every GOP winner of the South Carolina primary ends up winning the nomination.
CNN weekly hit and popular Black Republican commentator Lenny McAllister believes this will stick. “If nothing else, President Obama provided some of the political roadmap that Mr. Gingrich has been using to claw back into this nomination race,” said McAllister, a fierce critic of President Obama. “Americans want a president that can articulate a vision, not just provide experience, at the top. It comes down to a presidential race between two different men: one who can eloquently talk past his personal flaws to address the problems over the past four years; and the other who will have a hard time justifying his record despite his own eloquence. Don’t be surprised if the flaws of one man overcome the flawed administration of another.”