Archives: Could Newt Gingrich win 2012 GOP nomination?

Originally published in November 2011
Simon Nguyen

Newt Gingrich has replaced scandal-ridden Herman Cain as Mitt Romney’s biggest rival in the 2012 Republican presidential race. The latest McClatchy-Marist poll puts Gingrich ahead of Cain and in second place behind Romney. Considering his campaign was declared finished by some in early June, the former House Speaker’s rise has been completely unexpected.

Gingrich’s recent success can be attributed to Mitt Romney’s inability to win over conservatives and the collapse of several star conservative candidates such as Rick Perry and Herman Cain. Does Newt Gingrich have what it takes to beat Romney for the 2012 GOP nomination?

Newt Gingrich’s greatest advantage is the fact that GOP voters, when given a weak field of candidates, historically tend to coalesce around an older and more experienced candidate. Republicans did it in 1996 with Bob Dole and again in 2008 with John McCain. Compared to the other GOP candidates in the race, Gingrich is clearly a better known commodity having involved in Republican politics in some form or another for at least 30 years. With Gingrich, there is very little surprise to be had.

The former House Speaker’s oratorical prowess is another big advantage. Gingrich has yet to perform poorly in a televised debate. In fact, one could argue that he has won every single debate thus far. Given his experience and political instincts, this is not a huge surprise.

Frontrunner Mitt Romney has also performed well in the debates. However, Romney is not as quick on his feet as Gingrich and still appears somewhat scripted when answering questions about specific policies. While these weaknesses could be overlooked by his supporters, they certainly won’t help him win over his skeptics.

The prevalent anti-Romney sentiment among hardcore conservatives should also help Newt Gingrich. There is a reason why Mitt Romney has yet to break above 30 percent in most national polls. Many Republicans have been looking for an alternative to Mitt Romney. They had supported Rick Perry and Herman Cain, but both candidates failed to sustain their momentum. Gingrich’s surge in the polls indicates that conservatives are willing to give him a second look.

While Newt Gingrich is certainly not the conservatives’ ideal candidate, he could very well become the default candidate for the anti-Romney Republicans. Romney does have a big fundraising advantage over Gingrich, but as Herman Cain has demonstrated, money will be rolling in once momentum goes Gingrich’s way.

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