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Turbulent Republican Race Still Wide Open

Posted on the 27 November 2011 by ---

Turbulent Republican Race Still Wide Open

New front-runner Newt Gingrich, with his wife Callista

The last time I blogged about the 2012 Republican contest, it appeared to be a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, with Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain in the background as potential contenders.  So much has changed.  Perry, Huntsman, and Cain no longer have a chance of victory.  They've been done in by abysmal debate performances, a total lack of voter enthusiasm, and a sexual harassment scandal respectively. 
Now, Newt Gingrich, the baggage-laden former Speaker of the House, has grabbed the lead in national polls.  Newt also has commanding margins in the early voting states of Iowa and South Carolina.  Gingrich's campaign was left for dead after the first few months.  First, he was lacerated by party elites for criticizing Paul Ryan's plan, which he subsequently embraced.  Then, a scandal emerged about the considerable tab Gingrich has racked up at the jewelery store Tiffany's.  After the candidate opted to go on extended vacations to Hawaii and the Greek islands with his wife Callista instead of campaigning, there was a staff exodus.  To top it off, the operation was massively in debt, a combination of poor fundraising and Gingrich's insistence on flying his private jet between stops on the campaign's dollar.
As if that wasn't enough, Gingrich doesn't seem like a good fit for this election cycle at all.  While a majority of Americans crave bipartisan cooperation, Newt was a polarizing Speaker.  His marital adventures act as a repellant to social conservatives.  He's nothing if not a dreaded 'Washington insider.' The fact that he continually cites his P.h.D. is in direct conflict with the anti-intellectualism that has pervaded the right flank of the Republican party for the past decade.  And at a time when anger is widespread against the companies that helped cause the global recession, it was revealed that Gingrich received $1.8 million in consulting fees from beleaguered giant Freddie Mac.
Despite the plethora of reasons why Gingrich should not be leading the pack, he has jumped from polling near 1% over the summer in some surveys to leading the nomination race with 26%.  Newt's consistency in the debates and reputation as a man of ideas have helped him claim the yellow jersey and rocket to 19.5% on Intrade's primary, where politicos put in their two cents on who will be the next President.  He still trails Obama by a considerable amount, which would be a sticking point to him receiving the nomination.  However, Gingrich has managed to capture the imagination of the large anti-Romney contingency within the party - no small feat.
Elsewhere in the race, Buddy Roemer, Gary Johnson, and Fred Karger have been marginalized by the mainstream media.  Roemer and Johnson are both weighing the merits of third-party general election campaigns as independents.  Another unique candidate, Ron Paul, appears to be picking up traction in Iowa polling; a recent Bloomberg survey showed him statistically tied for the lead among likely caucus voters.  While that could open up an avenue to victory for him, it appears that most of the GOP field is slowly riding into the sunset.  Romney, Gingrich, and Paul are this month's contenders.  However, the future is deeply uncertain.

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