Why the New Newt Gingrich Is Winning

Newt Gingrich rises to the top of the GOP 2012 field.

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Liberals reacted with predictable outrage when former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich challenged the Occupy Wall Street crowd to go home, take a bath, and then go out and look for a job.

[See a slide show of Newt Gingrich's career.]

To them it was the "old Gingrich" resurfacing but, advantageously for the former speaker, a near majority of Americans—43 percent—agree with him, at least according to the latest survey by pollster Scott Rasmussen. The bad news, at least for Gingrich, is that an identical 43 percent of the 1,000 likely voters surveyed disagree with him while the remaining 14 percent inexplicably cannot decide what they think. Perhaps they are all upwind of the demonstrators.

In any case the whole issue serves to remind people that there are two things about Gingrich that are certain. One, that he has an almost unique ability to draw clear distinctions between competing ideas and reduce them down to a series of choices with which one may either agree or disagree.

[See political cartoons on Occupy Wall Street.]

The other is that he still drives the liberals crazy—although their outrage seems to be somewhat contrived these compared to what it was back in his earliest years in Congress when, as a backbencher and leader of the Conservative Opportunity Society, he set the GOP on its forward march to majority by nearly single-handedly taking down Democratic Speaker Jim Wright of Texas over his questionable ethics.

As no good deed ever goes unpunished, Gingrich was rewarded for his efforts with something on the order of 86 separate ethics complaints lodged against him in the ensuing years by Democrats out for revenge—all but one of which was dismissed as unfounded. And the one that was found to be of some merit was hardly earth-shaking and did not, as memory serves, involve a matter of personal corruption as the charges made against Wright had.

All this may explain, by way of back story, just how it is that Gingrich has fought his way back from near-oblivion to become, arguably, the current frontrunner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Running an unconventional campaign with a skeletal staff he has used the power of his intellect to outline for the voters a plan—he calls it the 21st Century Contract with America—to sharply curtail the power and influence of the liberal welfare state in favor of an America remade along the lines of what the Founding Fathers intended and de Tocqueville famously observed in his landmark study of what made the nation great.

[ Check out political cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.]

It is little surprise that he above all others has won the endorsement of the influential New Hampshire

Union Leader

newspaper, which editorialized Sunday,

America is at a crucial crossroads. It is not going to be enough to merely replace Barack Obama next year. We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing.

"He did so with the Contract with America," the front-page editorial, signed by Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid continued,

He did it in bringing in the first Republican House in 40 years and by forging balanced budgets and even a surplus despite the political challenge of dealing with a Democratic President. A lot of candidates say they're going to improve Washington. Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit]

A revived, reborn Gingrich campaign will likely be the subject of numerous attacks, from the media as well as from the campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who, until recently at least, was anointed the frontrunner by those who do such things in the political season. It is likely that Gingrich now, after being out of office for 15 years, has developed the personal discipline necessary to resist taking the bait. The voters apparently approve, as the polling indicates, of the serious, thoughtful, and somewhat more humble Gingrich they are now seeing. He would be smart to acknowledge this and to remember it. Meanwhile the first serious development in the run up to the real primary season, which begins when voters in Iowa and New Hampshire begin making their choices, goes to Gingrich's benefit.