Five Things Gingrich Must Do To Come From Behind And Win


gingrich1For Newt Gingrich, the window to disrupt the Republican primary and upset Mitt Romney for the presidential nomination is rapidly closing.

Romney is threatening to open up a double-digit lead in the crucial Florida primary according to the latest polls, and strong debate performances combined with relentless advertisements across the state have only buoyed his chances.

Meanwhile, Gingrich has been sidetracked by trivial issues dominating the news cycle. Discussions of his plans to create a moon colony colonized days that the former Speaker needed to position himself as the alternative to “Massachusetts moderate” Romney. Meanwhile, conservative support is coalescing around the former governor, with Gingrich faltering in the face of Romney’s better financed and more organized effort.

There’s more trouble on the horizon for Gingrich. After the Florida primary, the former Speaker is facing a month of states that prove demographically favorable to Romney. Those contests include: a Nevada caucus that should see a high Mormon turnout; a Maine caucus in Romney’s New England backyard; a Missouri primary where Gingrich failed to get on the ballot; and a Michigan primary in a state where Romney’s father was a popular governor.

Even worse for Gingrich, there is not another GOP debate – the forum in which he has performed the best – for a month. Without an upset victory in Florida, the math becomes increasingly difficult to equal a Gingrich victory.

For Newt Gingrich to stay relevant in the 2012 presidential election, his campaign will need to turn things around — and fast. Here are the five things that must happen for the former House Speaker to win the nomination.

1. Score a big endorsement – and many small ones. While individual endorsements have proven less relevant this campaign cycle, Gingrich needs a big name to assure loyal Republican voters that he has the baking of at least a branch of the modern Republican establishment. He also needs some way to counter the Romney campaign, whose legion of supporters – including 73 members of Congress, the last GOP presidential nominee, and high-profile governors like Virginia’s Bob McDonnell and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley – have flooded conservative media outlets with anti-Gingrich messaging. Unless Gingrich can find some high-profile anti-Romney Republicans to take a leap of faith and endorse his campaign – and other surrogates willing to spend time and effort regularly knocking the likely party nominee – it will remain difficult to convince voters that they should do so. Late nods from Rick Perry and Sarah Palin were essential in Gingrich’s come-from-behind South Carolina win.

2. Raise (and spend) more money. Gingrich has always been at a financial disadvantage in the GOP race, but spending heavily in South Carolina has handicapped the former Speaker. A Washington Post report Friday said that Romney and his associated Super PAC have spent twice as much on advertising in Florida – and that 80 percent of those ads were attacks on Gingrich. This comes despite a $2 million moneybomb fundraiser in the aftermath of Gingrich’s South Carolina win, and a pledge of an additional $5 million donation by Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to Gingrich’s Super PAC. Without better tapping into the wallets of conservatives disenchanted with Romney as their nominee, Gingrich will struggle to just stay afloat.

3. Curtail the “grandiose” ideas. Gingrich might take umbrage to Rick Santorum knocking him for his “grandiose” ideas, but they’re damaging his campaign and distracting from the central message he’s trying to portray. Gingrich’s proposed moon base dominated the headlines Wednesday, and discussion of the plan took on a life of it’s own during Thursday’s GOP debate – the final before the primary. Earlier in the campaign, his idea of having the urban poor work in schools as janitors similarly wasted days on the trail and delegitimized the seriousness of his campaign. Whether or not his policy proposals have merit, Gingrich needs to better identify the what is connecting with voters – and resist the temptation to slip into professorial pontification.

4. Convince Rick Santorum to drop out. The former senator’s performance in Thursday night’s debate was in many ways an homage to Gingrich; Santorum effectively painted his rivals as moderates bickering over irrelevant campaign slogans, assumed the high ground on policy issues, and threw in a sprinkling of media critique in a populist appeal to the Florida audience. By populating what should be natural territory for the former Speaker, Santorum is undermining his campaign and continuing to fragment the vote of conservatives who are skeptical of a Romney candidacy. Having lost his Senate seat nearly 4 years ago, Santorum is also playing with house money, giving him little incentive to abandon his bid. Gingrich needs to convince his “junior partner” to exit the race – and trade assurances about the eventual Republican platform, if necessary.

5. Force a Romney stumble. Despite a pair of back-to-back debate performances that demonstrated Romney’s ability to land punches, the former Massachusetts governor still demonstrated some of his least flattering attributes at points during Thursday night’s discussion. Romney suggested he would “fire” an employee who supported expanded space travel and that he was unaware of an attack ad that his campaign was airing — even though his voice “approved” the message. Gingrich does best when Republicans become concerned about Romney’s ability to connect with voters or effectively challenge President Obama. The former Speaker should unload any remaining opposition research his campaign might have discovered, and remain focused on hammering Romney as inauthentic and centrist. Doing so could force Romney into the type of self-inflicted error that gives the Republican establishment nightmares – and provides Gingrich the opportunity he needs to slip back into contention.

{The Hill/ Newscenter}