The Newt Gingrich Relevancy Project

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 21 2011 3:49 PM

The Newt Gingrich Relevancy Project

124028864
Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Republican presidential hopefuls and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich speaks during the Republican Presidential Candidates debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library September 7, 2011 in Simi Valley, California. Eight Republican candidates are debating to define the party's nominee to take on US President Barack Obama in the 2012 election. AFP PHOTO/ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

First Paul Bedard did it, and now Scott Conroy does it: Make an argument that Newt Gingrich is increasingly relevant to the 2012 race.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Though Gingrich has not exactly surged in the polls, he has been in fourth place among the declared GOP candidates in the last several national surveys and has been trending upward in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
Advertisement

Conroy keeps himself honest with a link to the polls. What do we learn from them? Well, Gingrich's campaign imploded in the first weeks of June. The day his team quit, Gingrich was at 7.3 percent in national polling, in fourth place. He tumbled as low as 4.3 percent in August. He has surged back to... 6.6 percent. Not bad, until you realize he started the race at 14.4 percent. Gingrich's fall from his peak has been slightly steeper than Bachmann's -- she went from 14 percent to 7.7 percent. He's not climbing, but he's surviving. Because debates include candidates based on polling, and not on whether the campaign is financially viable, it's enough to give Gingrich the continued glow of the spotlight.

But how is he a factor?

In aggressively challenging the approach taken by debate hosts ranging from Fox News to MSNBC, Gingrich has positioned himself as the voice of the besieged, and that has won him some accolades among the Republican rank and file... the campaign says that it has been inundated with encouragement and offers of support on the heels of the candidate’s recent debate performances.

That's good for Gingrich, but does it matter to the rest of the field? Not really, not at all. There are heated policy debates happening between the top tier candidates, egged on by the second (Paul, Bachmann, Huntsman) and third (Santorum) tiers. Gingrich isn't engaging in the debates. He derides moderators whenever they try to get him to criticize fellow Republicans, as if presidential primaries were not chances for the parties to define what they'll run on, what they stand for. Gingrich is campaigning independently of the field. You can see the finish line in his eyes: Enhanced stature, new requests for TV and speaking jobs, new books. This was especially clear in the last Republican debate after Gingrich dismissed a question about the Romney-Perry Social Security fight -- something that neither candidate has had to expand on, policy-wise -- by blaming Obama for preventing a utopian outcome.

You get back to a full employment economy, and at four percent unemployment you have such a huge increase in funding, that you change every single out year of projection in a positive way.

Well, there we go! The upshot I see: Gingrich isn't actually affecting the race, but he's fun to cover.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.