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Is Newt Gingrich's time atop GOP field coming to an end?

December 19, 2011|By James Oliphant
  • A CNN/Opinion Research poll out Monday shows Mitt Romney drawing dead even with Newt Gingrich, with the two tied at 28% nationally - a 12-point tumble for the former speaker of the House.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll out Monday shows Mitt Romney drawing dead even… (Stephen Morton / AP )

The short, happy life of Newt Gingrich as the GOP front-runner appears to be drawing to a close, if some recent polls are to believed.

With about two weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses and a time when the campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination are expected to soon enter a sort of holiday deep freeze, Gingrich seems to be losing momentum at a critical time.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll out Monday shows Mitt Romney drawing dead even with Gingrich, with the two tied at 28% nationally. For the flame-throwing former House speaker, that’s a tumble of 12 points since the last CNN poll.

The daily Gallup tracking poll shows that Gingrich's 15-point lead over Romney has essentially evaporated since the start of December and that the two are neck-and-neck.

Intrade, which tries to predict how markets will operate, details a precipitous collapse of faith in Gingrich’s chances just over the past week. According to the site, Gingrich first peaked at Dec. 2, which had Gingrich at about 38.3 % chance of being the GOP nominee, and then peaked again at close to that number just about a week ago.

Monday, Intrade has Gingrich at just 8.7%.

Erosion appears to be taking hold in Iowa, as well. A new Public Policy Polling survey out Monday has Gingrich falling behind Ron Paul and Romney in the Hawkeye State, dropping from 27% support from likely GOP caucus-goers to 14 % in the past two weeks.

PPP is considered to be a Democrat-leaning firm which uses automated telephone surveys rather than real-life interviewers, which can skew results. But a Republican-leaning firm, Rasmussen, has Gingrich dropping from 32% to 20% over the past month in Iowa.

Another poll released Sunday by the firm Insider Advantage had Gingrich at 12%, behind Paul, Romney and Rick Perry.

It’s a lot of numbers—all of which need to be taken with several varietals of salt. But none of them are coming up Newt.

And there is one clear pattern: the more Gingrich has become a known quantity, both through his own statements at debates and other campaign appearances or through a relentless wave of negative advertising unleashed by the Romney campaign and a pro-Romney advocacy group, the more he has begun to slide.

Newtmentum has run into a force just as powerful: Newtonium, which consists of the following factors, in no particular order:

1)    Gingrich’s lack of organization and money;

2)    His unwillingness to consistently go negative on Romney, in particular;

3)    His consulting work on behalf of Freddie Mac;

4)    His apparent resistance to a heavy campaign schedule (he raised eyebrows by staying in Washington over the weekend but appears to be planning to barnstorm Iowa in the home stretch)

5)    His personal baggage, including his three marriages, which continues to disturb social conservatives

6)    His unpopularity with Republicans who worked with him in the House;

7)    His unpopularity with the GOP East Coast establishment

8)    His views on immigration, which skew left of the GOP field

9)    His likely-unconstitutional plans for reining in federal judges, which skew right of the GOP field

10)  Polls that show him having a very difficult time beating Obama in a head-to-head matchup

That’s not a full plate of negatives; it's a holiday party buffet, and all have come into sharper focus in just the past 10 days. It’s a lot for any candidate to overcome, and it doesn’t mean that Gingrich won’t.

But right now, at least, it all has the feel of voters taking Gingrich off the shelf, giving him a shake, and putting him back. And it suggests that with two weeks to go, the race is either again Mitt Romney’s to lose or, in Iowa at least, as wide open as ever.

james.oliphant@latimes.com

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