*/Folks it’s been a long time since the last blog post. It is not that this site is falling into disrepair, it’s just been a very busy week with finals and such. Going forward, the infrequence of recent posts will not be tolerated./*
January 3 marks the opening of the true political season, and it now appears that Newt Gingrich is racing against time.
For over a month now, Newt has been riding a wave of popular conservative support toward victory in Iowa. This ride began with the implosion of the now-dearly-departed Cain campaign, after which he was able to open up a 20+% lead over Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. The Newtmentum has slowed, the trends head downward again.
What was a 23 point lead is now eight according to a Gallup poll released today. Rasmussen polls out of Iowa showed Gingrich with a 13 point lead a month ago; their polls released today suggest that Newt actually trails Mitt Romney by three points.
Not all the polls show such a dramatic turnaround (many, in fact, still show Gingrich with a relatively comfortable lead), but there is a near-universal diminution of positive intensity behind the former House speaker.
For those who anointed Newt as the final “Anti-Romney”, the news of his diminishing lead in Iowa is troublesome. He was supposed to be the one around whom the arch-conservative wing of the party coalesced.
There are a few key factors that have foreshadowed the regression of Newt’s lead.
The first, of course, being the overarching pattern of ups and downs in the Republican field so far. One conservative firebrand emerges, recedes, and is then supplanted by another candidate in the same mold.
Newt is now falling victim to the same cycle, but for different reasons.
Whereas Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain were largely undone by what amounts to ignorance, Newt Gingrich may be falling victim to his policy making zeal. Throughout his political career, Newt has prided himself on being an “idea man” who often champions sweeping government action to solve problems.
This is likely a function of the man’s personality. Gingrich is regarded as a megalomaniac at worst, a simple egotist at best. Newt’s hero complex has led him to champion sweeping government environmental action alongside the arch-nemesis of all conservatives, Nancy Pelosi, and support healthcare reform that involved the dreaded individual mandate.
Newt’s record is, in many ways, the antithesis of the Tea Party ideal. It seems that many conservatives are beginning to figure this out.
The second reason for Newt’s failure to retain his massive lead in Iowa is far less ideological than the first.
The is no real Gingrich organization on the ground in Iowa. Only last week, the candidate was still getting campaign offices up and running. The lack of a ground game may date back to the summer flight of a substantial chunk of Newt’s campaign team.
In a predominantly rural state of only 3 million people, where vaunted political traditions exist nearly everywhere (see Inn, Hamburg in Iowa City), face to face interaction with voters is crucial.
Rick Perry’s second chance campaign reboot Iowa bus tour, for example, is apparently rekindling the tiniest flicker of support for the Texas governor. That he is capable of being redeemed in anyone’s eyes is a testament to the necessity and effectiveness of a grassroots effort.
Because Newt lacks this presence in Iowa it makes him vulnerable to better organized candidates with a personal connection to the voters.
Mitt Romney may not be campaigning in Iowa, but Ron Paul is. And Ron Paul has incredible organization in Iowa and a very devoted support system.
Paul has been polling as high as second in Iowa and his devoted supporters may turn out to caucus (an unusually labor intensive voting procedure) in greater numbers than Newt Gingrich’s, who will likely continue to lose faith as their candidate is picked apart as the front runner.
So for now, Gingrich leads, but he is still far from a foregone conclusion.
A defeat in Iowa would not spell certain doom for his candidacy by any means, but a loss in Iowa to either Ron Paul or Mitt Romney (who has not campaigned in Iowa, and will win the nation’s second contest in New Hampshire) would be hugely damaging to the Gingrich campaign.
Iowa is Newt’s to lose, all he has to do is beat his impending demise to the finish line.