The latest Republican Primary poll released December 13 by the Wall Street Journal shows former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich with a commanding 40 percent of the vote. His next closest potential Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, trails by 17 percent. With such a firm lead, is it possible for anyone to catch Gingrich before the selection process for the nominee begins? To find the answer, we have to take a closer look at the other Republican candidates, and how they stand in the polls.
Congresswoman Michelle Bachman (MN) now sits with a rather pitiful 8 percent in the latest poll. However, just a few months ago she was considered a front runner for the nomination. After a media onslaught and blatant attacks against her from the other candidates, Bachman fell to her current status.
Texas Governor Rick Perry had a formidable lead on the other candidates no later than October, yet he currently has only 6 percent of the Republican vote. The GOP vaulted him to his early front runner status based upon his strong record of creating jobs in Texasas well as his powerful Tea-Party appeal. Before he entered the race, media outlets as well as politicians begged him to participate. His grip on the conservative public seemed to be unbreakable. That is, until he tried his hand at debating.
For Perry, the downfall from the top would be even more brutal than Bachman’s, and as an observer, I must say it as fairly painful to watch. Perry seemed incapable of creating a coherent sentence when placed in a debate format. His gaffs became famous and included incidents such as the time he cited three government agencies he would cut to save money, and then proceeded to forget the name of the third agency after blatantly stalling for roughly a minute. These speaking errors found their way into the national media spotlight as well as the comedic program Saturday Night Live and solidified Perry’s fall from front runner to punch line.
Gingrich’s predecessor as the GOP’s top-dog, businessman Herman Cain, had the greatest downfall out of any of the candidates. Originally, Cain’s appeal to voters consisted of his fresh new attitude and his virtual political virginity. Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, cited his distance from “the Washington politics of old” as well as his economic experience in an attempt to woo voters. His well known 9-9-9 plan consisted with replacing the current tax code with a flat 9 percent income tax, a 9 percent business tax, and a 9 percent sales tax. The simplicity of this plan appealed to voters and gave him his brief moment of legitimacy within the primary race. Unfortunately for Cain, this success was not meant to last.
Cain’s downfall began when word reached the media of a sexual harassment lawsuit that had been filed against him by a former employee during his days as Godfather CEO. He was consistently inconsistent when questioned about the incident. One day he would deny the event had ever occurred and the next he would say he “needed more time to fully recollect what had happened.” Cain stumbled along until finally, several more women, including one who claimed to have been having a 13-year affair with him, stepped forward. Shortly after these revelations, Cain suspended his campaign saying he had come to his decision after “a lot of prayer and soul searching.”
This muddled exit left Gingrich, up until that point an afterthought, as the Republican front runner.
The question remains, will Gingrich go the same way as his predecessors, or will he hold on long enough to receive the nomination and run against President Obama in 2012? The former House Speaker has, just as the previous front runners, an impressive array of appeals toward Republican voters. He served 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and has authored 23 books on political theory. Gingrich is also one of the most intelligent and articulate of the GOP candidates. His extensive political knowledge has allowed him to outwit and out speak many of his Republican adversaries during debates. However, like the frontrunners before him, Gingrich possesses more than a few flaws which could ultimately lead to his downfall.
In 1980, his first marriage to Jackie Battley ended abruptly as Gingrich unexpectedly filed for divorce. Battley was at the time in a hospital fighting cancer.
Former Gingrich campaign treasurer L. H. Carter told the press Gingrich said regarding his spouse, “She’s not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the President. And besides, she has cancer.”
While Gingrich adamantly denied this claim, the allegations marred his image in the eyes of the public. Things were not helped when he married Marianne Ginther six months after the divorce; especially when Gingrich proceeded to have an affair with congressional staffer Callista Bisek during the investigation of President Bill Clinton’s own affair. An investigation that was led by none other than Gingrich himself.
It is impossible to tell whether Newt Gingrich will last as the Republican Primary front runner. He certainly has the credentials. However, his controversial past will almost certainly come back to haunt the former Speaker as he fights for the nomination. Will it be enough to derail his current 17 percent lead over the other candidates, or are the events of the twentieth century “water under the bridge” in the eyes of Primary voters? With the Iowa caucuses coming up in early 2012, we will know soon enough.
By Tom Zahrt