The pile-on against Newt Gingrich has begun.
When former House speaker began rising in the polls, it was only a matter of time before his record became the subject of intense media scrutiny. That time has arrived.
In the past 24 hours, as news spread that Gingrich's surge has taken him to the top tier of Republican presidential candidates, the media and his political critics have begun relentlessly scouring Gingrich's past and reminding voters of his checkered history.
Among the news organizations that have zeroed in on Gingrich have been the Washington Post ("Gingrich received $300,000 fee to advise Freddie Mac"), CBS News ("Newt Gingrich: Sweet and sour"], the Christian Science Monitor ("Infidelity, divorce, and Newt Gingrich: Can voters get past his record?"), and ABC News ("Newt Gingrich's Greek Vacation Becomes Campaign Talking Point."
Gingrich complains that the mainstream media have a vendetta against him. "I fully expect them to dig up everything they can, throw the kitchen sink at me, and see if they can stop me," he told KBOB radio in Jacksonville, Fla. yesterday. He argued that his candidacy is "probably the greatest threat" to President Obama's re-election.
Earlier, Gingrich won plaudits from conservatives for his sharp criticism of the media during the GOP debates. For years, many Republican voters have argued that the media are too liberal and won't give conservatives a fair shake.
But Gingrich also has a past that could alienate many conservatives once they are reminded of it. He has a history of marital infidelities which will trouble Christian conservatives, a core constituency of the GOP. He was an ultimate Washington insider while he was House speaker, even though he is now adopting an anti-Washington stance. He worked in cooperation with Democratic President Bill Clinton, the nemesis of the right, on a variety of issues. He has the reputation as an undisciplined politician who could self-destruct at any moment. His combativeness, ego, and know-it-all attitude make him unlikeable to many.
What he is banking on, however, is that Republicans are so unhappy with his competition, including long-time GOP front runner Mitt Romney, that they will turn to him as the most knowledgeable, toughest, most articulate conservative in the field. But persuading voters to overlook his flaws may be Gingrich's biggest challenge of all.