Tag Archives: newt gingrich 2012

Is Gingrich Gaining? Rage Against The Machine!

An article in the online website TheHill this morning suggests that Newt Gingrich is narrowing the gap with Mitt Romney in Florida, one day ahead of that state’s crucial primary.  It bases that assertion on the two most recent polls that have Romney’s lead over Gingrich down to single digits.  The first poll, by InsiderAdvantage, has Romney beating Gingrich by just 4.6%,  35.7-31.1%, with Santorum and Romney back in the pack at about 12%. The second  poll, PublicPolicyPolling’s daily tracker, has Romney up 7%, 39-32.  That’s not much of a change from the previous PPP tracking poll – but it does show a closer race than the double-digit lead almost every other poll has given Romney in previous days.

Even if Gingrich is enjoying a late surge in Florida, however, it will almost surely be too little, too late, given that about a third of polling respondents say they have already voted, and among those Romney leads by double-digits, at about 45-33%.  That means Gingrich is going to have to beat Romney by some 5% or more in votes cast tomorrow just to pull even. At this point, I don’t see that happening.

If the race is tightening, however, it may at least make tomorrow a more eventful day (and even worth live blogging!)  But why would Gingrich suddenly reverse a week-long trend in which every poll consistently showed Romney’s lead growing into double digits?  Without a sufficient explanation, I tend to think the InsiderAdvantage poll is an outlier.  Note that it shows Gingrich beating Romney among Hispanics, 42.4-29%, something I haven’t seen in any other Florida poll this week; they all show Romney winning the Hispanic vote.  Moreover, PPP has consistently shown this to be a closer race than have the other surveys, and in this sense their latest poll suggests no real change.

Of course, if Gingrich is closing the gap, he might have to thank everyone’s favorite Mistress of the Moose Sarah Palin.  As she did before the South Carolina primary, the former Alaskan Governor has been on the air in the last several days urging voters to prolong the Republican vetting process by voting for Gingrich in Florida.  Saturday on Fox’s Jeannine Pirro show Palin told viewers to: “rage against the machine at this point in order to defend our republic and save what is good and secure and prosperous about our nation…We need somebody who is engaged in sudden and relentless reform and is not afraid to shake up the establishment. So, if for no other reason, rage against the machine, vote for Newt, annoy a liberal, vote Newt, keep this vetting process going, keep the debate going.”  Although she stopped short of formally endorsing Gingrich’s candidacy (something her husband Todd has already done), it’s clear she is uncomfortable with the pressure the Republican establishment has been exerting to close ranks behind Mitt.

With Herman Cain’s endorsement of Newt yesterday, following Rick Perry’s before the South Carolina primary, it is clear that Newt has positioned himself to become the Tea Party populist anti-establishment candidate.  There is more than a little irony in this, given that Gingrich spent the bulk of his political career in Washington, DC, including four years as House Speaker.  That’s about as establishment as one can get.  And yet it is a reminder that much of the Tea Party remains deeply skeptical of Romney, who they view as closely linked to the economic Wall St. royalists that they associate with the housing market collapse/bank bailout.  For his part, Gingrich has been only too happy to adopt the insurgent’s role, no matter how against type he would appear to be.  Whether it will be enough to keep his candidacy going remains to be seen. It depends, in part, on whether Santorum will drop out and, if so, does he follow Perry and Cain and endorse Newt?  (Although I should note that in Florida, at least, at least half of Santorum’s supporters list Mitt as their second choice!)

What about it Rick?  Will you rage against the machine and testify on Newt’s behalf?


It’s Newt’s-paper!: the Union Leader Endorses Gingrich

I was on the road yesterday, and so am late getting to the big news story: the decision by the New Hampshire Union Leader to endorse Newt Gingrich in the upcoming New Hampshire Republican primary.  Make no mistake about it – this is a big news story which is why it led most of the major political talk shows yesterday.   Coming just as Newt is beginning to surge in polls, and with only about 40 days before New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation Republican primary, the timing of the endorsement could scarcely be more auspicious, not least because it is the second presidential election in a row in which the Union Leader failed to back local guy Mitt Romney.

Nonetheless, despite the media buzz,  it’s hard to tell whether this is going to be as substantively important as pundits suggest.  I, for one, am skeptical.  Longtime readers will recall that I generally don’t put much stock in the power of endorsements, either by individuals or newspapers, to independently impact the outcome of presidential races.   Now, it’s possible that this endorsement will have a marginally greater impact because it occurs in a highly visible primary race – the New Hampshire primary typically gets far more media coverage than almost any other nomination event – during a period when the outcome of the Republican fight is still in doubt.  Given the fluidity of the race, one might argue that this endorsement  is potentially different than, say, Colin Powell endorsing Barack Obama in the closing days of the 2008 election, an event that in my view had zero impact on that race.

In fact, however, the Union Leader has only a mixed record in picking New Hampshire primary winners, as the following table shows (contested races only):

Year and Endorsed Candidate Win New Hampshire Primary? Win Republican Nomination?
1976 – Ronald Reagan No – finished 2nd No
1980 – Ronald Reagan Yes Yes
1988 – Pierre Du Pont No –  finished 4rth No
1992 – Patrick Buchanan No – finished 2nd No
1996 – Patrick Buchanan Yes No
2000 – Steve Forbes No – finished 3rd No
2008 – John McCain Yes Yes
2012 – Newt Gingrich ? ?

Of course, we can’t be sure that the Union Leader’s endorsement didn’t help even in those years in which their preferred candidate didn’t win – maybe the newspaper’s backing made the race closer than it otherwise might have been?   It’s true that if you look at the roster of their endorsees through the years, it is a who’s who of longshots and iconoclasts.  I’m mean, Pierre Du Pont?  Steve Forbes?  Occasionally, as in 1996 when Pat Buchanan narrowly beat Bob Dole, one could argue that the newspaper’s endorsement made a difference.  But even in the other  years maybe a Forbes or Du Pont benefitted even though they didn’t win.   I tend to think historically the Union Leader has been more interested in making a point of principle by backing  underdogs that fit with the paper’s conservative ideology rather than embracing the candidates favored by the Republican Party establishment, but this doesn’t mean their endorsement doesn’t matter at all.

The problem becomes trying to assess the independent impact of the endorsement against all the other factors that are influencing Newt’s rise in the New Hampshire polls.  Consider that Newt had already gained about 12%, on average, in New Hampshire polls in the period from Nov. 15 through yesterday, when the Union Leader endorsed him.  You can see the trend here – Newt is in green, Romney in purple (source is RealPolitics poll aggregator).

If the current trend holds, Newt might gain an additional 20% in support by the time of the New Hampshire  primary, putting him close to 40% overall, particularly if other candidates drop out. Now, if you ran a simple analysis in which you regressed Newt’s final share of vote (say 40%) against his polling average at a point just before the Union Leader endorsement (say, 18%), and included a measure for the Union Leader’s endorsement, and your regression includes all the other Republican candidates who did not get an endorsement, you might conclude that the Union Leader has a pretty big impact on Newt’s final vote tally since he’s likely to end up with more votes than his current poll status indicates.  But you could also be wrong – the Union Leader might in fact have simply jumped on the Newt bandwagon without having any independent impact at all on the final vote, given that Newt’s surge predated the endorsement.  Put another way, the Union Leader might just be very good at spotting candidates who are moving up already, or are poised to do so.

This is all a long way of saying that while it is certainly nice to get the endorsement of the state’s largest paper, that event by itself is probably not going to make Newt the winner in New Hampshire.  Of course, as I’ve stated repeatedly, the nominating process is still in a very fluid state, one in which it is difficult to specify with any certainty what events matter, and by how much.  So I could be wrong about this latest endorsement – maybe it will, by itself, push Newt to the top.  Then again, a few weeks back everyone (but me) was trumpeting Chris Christie’s endorsement of Romney, one of the several dozen he’s tallied already.  Mitt’s status in the polls, however, has remained relatively flat despite all those endorsements.

Bottom line: is this a big story? Yes.  Does it help Newt in New Hampshire?  Maybe.  Is Newt now the favorite to win the first primary?  No.  (But it doesn’t mean he won’t!)