Oct. 21, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Next in Line (Apparently) for GOP: Newt Gingrich

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
If support for Newt Gingrich picks up steam, it’s likely the former Speaker’s flaws will also receive attention once again, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

OK, I give up. I don’t know what the heck is going to happen in the Republican race.

Actually, the fundamentals of the race haven’t changed much, if you think about it. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continues to appeal to about one-quarter of his party, with the other three-quarters still looking for an alternative.

They’ve sampled and discarded Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. They liked businessman Herman Cain, and some still do, but he obviously has his problems. So, many of them have moved on to the next person in the GOP race not named Romney.

The alternative du jour for conservatives is former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), whose campaign manager and top staffers resigned in early June, about a month after his campaign launch.

Newt may well be the smartest, most interesting and most analytical person in the GOP race. He probably is also the most prone to exaggeration, the most personally flawed and the most undisciplined.

Gingrich, like Cain before him, has been able to shoot toward the top of the Republican pack without a classic grass-roots organization. But then again, this isn’t the point in the race when organization, or even fundraising, matters. Not this year, at least.

The large number of debates has given the former Speaker the opportunity to showcase his skills. At his best, his analytical approach and knowledge of history allows him to make big points that appeal to conservative viewers. And, of course, you can’t go wrong by beating up the national media at a Republican debate, as Gingrich has been doing.

But Gingrich’s flaws are likely to receive attention once again, now that he has re-emerged from obscurity in the GOP race. The media (and his GOP adversaries) ignored him when he was irrelevant, but they will focus on him now that he seems to be a factor.

This is, after all, the same Gingrich who on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in May called Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal “right-wing social engineering,” had a revolving credit account for hundreds of thousands of dollars at Tiffany & Co., has been more than sympathetic to an individual mandate on health insurance and supported the Bush administration’s Medicare Part D initiative that is often criticized by conservatives as an expansion of government.

It’s also the thrice-married Gingrich, who was having an affair (with the woman now his wife) at the same time that he was leading the charge against President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

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