Newt Gingrich the history professor could teach a semester-long course on the improbable fall and rise of Newt Gingrich the presidential candidate, who is leading the polls in Iowa and key early primary states like South Carolina and Florida.
The midterm exam assignment would focus on the next few days – three weeks ahead of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses – to see if the former House speaker survives the recent barrage of attacks by everyone from San Francisco DemocratÂ Nancy PelosiÂ to conservative former George H.W. Bush Chief of Staff John Sununu, a supporter of rival Mitt Romney.
If Gingrich survives the attacks – and his own propensity for self-immolation – analysts say he could have more staying power than the past few Republican flavors-of-the-month who have all melted under the front-runner’s spotlight.
Even though Gingrich raised less money than all but one of his GOP rivals through September, analysts say if he performs well in the early states he could get enough of a fundraising bump to compete in the Jan. 31 Florida primary.
But first he must survive December.
And while Gingrich enjoys a healthy lead in Iowa, two-thirds of the likely GOP caucus voters in a recent CBS News/New York Times poll said they hadn’t made up their minds yet.
Unlike past years, when social issues were the top concern in the GOP caucus, this year it is the economy, the poll found. And on that score, voters were evenly divided over who would serve them best, Gingrich or Romney.
“But Romney still hasn’t made his case to voters,” said Ford O’Connell, a national Republican strategist who is unaffiliated in this campaign.