In just four weeks Iowa voters will come to a decision that could reverberate throughout the country; it could change the national discourse and create a media firestorm. The big question on everyone's mind: Who will Iowans choose as the 2012 GOP presidential candidate?
Newt Gingrich holds a strong lead in Iowa, according to two recent polls released this morning. Gingrich garnered 33% of Iowa GOP voters' support, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul tied for second place, procuring 18% of support. Texas Gov. Rick Perry trailed in third place with 11%, while Rep. Michele Bachmann and Pennsylvania Sen. Rich Santorium landed in the single digits. The CBS/New York Times poll paints the same picture, with 31% of Iowa Republicans believing Gingrich has a better shot of defeating President Obama over Romney.
Just a few months ago, the former House speaker was being cast aside as a serious GOP presidential contender after the website Politico reported that Gingrich and his wife had a very large ($500,000!) revolving, interest-free account at jeweler Tiffany & Co. Then it was revealed that Gingrich's campaign staff resigned en masse, forcing Gingrich to declare that his nascent presidential campaign would be starting "anew."
As Gingrich rebuilt and refocused his campaign, attention swerved to Perry and Hermain Cain; both saw their poll numbers and party support slip after embarrassing debate performances (Perry) and accusations of sexual misconduct (Cain).
It's still somewhat surprising that Gingrich has managed to become the newest GOP frontrunner after resurrecting his moribund campaign, though as this race has proven thus far, Republican voters are flip-flopping on candidates as nearly as often as Romney is on his policy recommendations. According to Peter Schweizer, author of the latest book "Throw Them All Out" and a former policy adviser to Sarah Palin, Gingrich's surge can be attributed to Romney's "lack of enthusiasm" and the fact that he remains an "unknown" to most of the nation.
"People are not sure what he's [Romney] actually going to do when he's in the White House," Schweitzer says in the attached clip. "Gingrich is in a very good position right now. He has a very good chance of being the nominee."
Schweizer says Gingrich has fired up the Republican base because he fits the mold of their ideal presidential candidate: a fighter "who's going to go in there and really take on Obama politically." Romney does not fit that temperament, Schweizer says, and his frequent changes on past political decisions have not sat well with voters.
Four weeks can be an eternity in politics. The pack of seven now meet again at Drake University this Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET in a debate sponsored by ABC. Schweizer says Republicans are optimistic but cautious on Gingrich, fearing he could undermine his candidacy by saying something inappropriate. But "no candidate will be perfect," Schweizer adds.
- Newt Gingrich