Pundits Skeptical of Gingrich Rise
Former House Speaker gains in the polls as alternatives to Romney falter.
It seems that with each passing week, there’s a new main challenger to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s front-runner status.
First it was Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota). Then it was Texas Gov. Rick Perry. And later, it was Georgia businessman Herman Cain. For various reasons, all of these candidates slipped in the polls after the media spotlight became white hot.
Last week is almost déjà vu all over again, so to speak, with the case of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. After suffering some setbacks during the early portions of his campaign,Gingrich has seen a rise in his poll numbers after other candidates, like Cain and Perry, have faltered.
But with increased attention comes increased scrutiny, such as a report that Gingrich’s consulting firm received money from Freddie Mac. And the herky-jerky pace of the GOP race led Stuart Rothenberg, whose analysis has been noted often in this column, to declare “I don’t know what the heck is going to happen in the Republican race.”
“The large number of debates has given the former Speaker the opportunity to showcase his skills,” Rothenberg wrote. “At his best, his analytical approach and knowledge of history allows him to make big points that appeal to conservative viewers. And, of course, you can’t go wrong by beating up the national media at a Republican debate, as Gingrich has been doing.”
“But Gingrich’s flaws are likely to receive attention once again, now that he has re-emerged from obscurity in the GOP race,” he added. "The media (and his GOP adversaries) ignored him when he was irrelevant, but they will focus on him now that he seems to be a factor.”
The New York Times’ Nate Silver – who runs the popular prognostication blog Five Thirty Eight—wrote earlier in the month that Gingrich has “major obstacles” to wrestling the nomination away. He cited Gingirch’s lack of endorsements, his personal liabilities and electability and his subpar fundraising numbers.
“If Republican voters decide that they really don’t want to nominate Mitt Romney, Mr. Gingrich could be the last man standing,” Silver wrote. “But even if Mr. Gingrich continues to gain in the polls, he will have some major weaknesses to overcome.”
For historical buffs, such as Gingrich, who has a doctorate in history, James K. Polk is the only former House Speaker to become president. Some, such as Missourian Champ Clark andKentuckian Henry Clay, came close, but couldn’t make it to the finish line.
U.S. SENATE RACE STILL A “TOSS-UP”
Speaking of prognostication, most of the aforementioned organizations classify the re-election effort of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) as a toss-up.
SCHOELLER REELS IN HOUSE BACKING
A GOP candidate for secretary of state touting a bevy of endorsements from state House members.
House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller (R-Willard), announced his candidacy for the statewide office earlier this fall. And last week, his campaign released endorsements from 65 Republican House members.
A number of St. Louis-area lawmakers are on that list, including House Majority Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka), Rep. Cloria Brown (R-South St. Louis County), Rep. Cole McNary (R-Chesterfield), Rep. Sue Allen (R-Town and Country) and Rep. Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood).
“I am humbled by the overwhelming support I have received from my fellow conservative Republicans, who have seen me working tirelessly to defend our conservative values,” Schoeller said in a statement. “As Secretary of State, I will continue to defend the sacred institutions that make our country great; fair elections and free enterprise.”
Senators Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville) and Bill Stouffer (R-Napton) are also running for the position. Rep. Jason Kander, a Kansas City Democrat who has scooped up his own share of endorsements, also announced his candidacy.
By the way, last week was a busy one for statewide candidacy announcements. St. Louis County businessman Chris McKee, the son of St. Charles developer Paul McKee, sent out a press release stating he would run for lieutenant governor.
Then, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder announced he is dropping out of the Missouri governor race and supporting Dave Spence, of Ladue, as a candidate.
DIECKHAUS OFFICIALLY TAKES THE HELM
Updating an item from previous weeks, state Rep. Scott Dieckhaus (R-Washington) officially was named interim executive director of the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC).
“Scott is a hard working, extremely dedicated and very capable individual who knows firsthand the value of having a well run and effective campaign committee,” said Jones, the Eureka lawmaker who is the chairman of the HRCC. “He has been an integral member of the team since he first came on board in 2008 and he will continue to be in his new position as Interim Executive Director.”
The HRCC provides assistance, including financial support and advertisements, to Republican state House candidates during election cycles.
About this column: A look around the region at the week that was in electoral politics and a glimpse of the week to come.