If the polls are to be believed, Newt Gingrich is a steamroller. He’s leading in Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And he’s narrowing Mitt Romney’s lead in New Hampshire. The self-assured former speaker of the House who I and others wrote off when his campaign imploded in June is most assuredly back. But whether Gingrich can turn his poll vault into an actual campaign that wins states and takes the nomination remains to be seen.
Gingrich is facing the same problem that added to the improbability of Herman Cain’s unlikely“campaign.” Those great poll numbers don’t mean a thing if you don’t have a ground game in the states. As The Post reports today, compared to Romney, “Gingrich, in turn, is scrambling to build, almost from scratch, a campaign operation that can match the good fortune of his newfound support. Lacking the funds or the infrastructure of the Romney campaign, Gingrich is looking for a quick infusion of money while urgently adding staff to handle the demands of building organizations in many states at once.”
The lack of an up-to-speed campaign apparatus might explain why Gingrich moved with lightning speed to accept the invitation to participate in the Newsmax-Ion Television debate to be moderated by Donald Trump. The Dec. 27 event will be in Des Moines. No doubt a lot of (Hawk)eyes will be tuning in with the Iowa caucuses taking place a week later on Jan. 3. The debate will give Gingrich yet another opportunity to reach prospective caucus goers. As one Republican operative told me, “Newt will be on a stage talking to voters organizing his vote for Tuesday.” Gingrich will have plenty of time to talk. Rick Santorum is the only other GOP contender to say he’ll be on the stage.
But even if Gingrich is able to build the plane while flying it, there are no assurances he’ll be able to bring it in to secure the nomination. Leading conservatives are openly discussing his glaring negatives. As I noted yesterday, for MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough it has become a daily exercise. Meanwhile, others are openly talking about a brokered convention in Tampa next year. David Frum writes today that Gingrich will go the way of all the other anybody-but-Romneys. It’s just a matter of whether his (second) implosion will happen before the August 2012 convention. But Frum has a prediction that doesn’t augur well for the GOP. “If Gingrich has emerged as the nominee by then,” he writes, “the mood of that convention will be full unconcealed panic.”
That so won’t be pretty.