But this overt kind of comment has been rare in the 2012 cycle, though the former speaker has been criticized in the press for looking down his nose at debate hosts.
"With the 'Old Newt,' it would practically be a given" that lack of discipline would make him implode, says Conway, who says she knows Gingrich well. "The new Newt seems more like a 68-year-old, churchgoing grandfather of two, whose occasional haughtiness has been subsumed by a huge dose of humility over the last six months."
Conway admits the threat of Gingrich lashing out in an unguarded moment is a potential weak spot for opponents to exploit. "Of course there's a trigger there," she says. "If I were in the Romney and Obama camps, I would not be waiting for Newt to self-destruct, but I would try to egg him on."
And if Gingrich can't keep his temperament, discipline, and judgment in line, it's going to be a tough road through primary and caucus season since a nominee likely won't be settled until at least mid-to-late February or later. "Can he keep his mouth under control for a full 90 days?" wonders van Lohuizen. "He's succeeded for two weeks [of being in the lead]. Ninety days is a long time in Gingrich's life."