According to Public Policy Polling, Ron Paul is now within a point of Gingrich in Iowa and Gingrich’s support has shrunk from27% to 22% in the last week. What is even more ominous is that Gingrich is losing support with Tea Party-affiliated voters. The poll also shows that Gingrich’s support is softer than Paul’s. Maybe it is a rogue poll, but I think it is getting at something real. The anti-Gingrich ads have only been on the air for a week. The last debate didn’t go nearly as well for Gingrich as some of the national media said, but it could have gone a lot worse. Bachmann and Santorum got in some good licks and Gingrich’s responses were either weak (responding to Bachmann that he was just a private sector strategic consultant for Freddie Mac) or nonexistent (to Santorum’s criticisms.) The good news for Gingrich was that the national media focused on his smackdown of Romney and Romney’s $10,000 bet offer . But the people watching the debate saw what they saw. Gingrich will be very lucky to do as well at the next debate. I don’t think there are good responses to the Freddie Mac and health insurance mandate issues. If Bachmann and Santorum are competent in their attacks the only question is how much damage they do Gingrich. And Romney is not witty, but he is smart and he works. He took a bad angle against Gingrich on Saturday. He will have had four days to think about how to go for Gingrich’s throat. He might not revive his Iowa campaign, but more likely than not, he’ll hit Gingrich for real and leave a mark. There are three weeks until Iowa, several of Gingrich’s political opponents (Romney and Paul) have buckets of money to run negative ads and they have a lot of material to work with.
And something snapped yesterday. I saw that Gingrich’s suggestion that Romney give back his Bain Capital money got him some critical commentary on FOX News. Brit Hume upbraided Gingrich on the 6:00 PM Special Report show. That didn’t strike me as a big deal. Hume plays it pretty straight. I was driving to work this morning and was listening to the first segment of Fox & Friends. The hosts on that show are friendly to Gingrich to say the least, but the first segment included some pretty sharp criticism of Gingrich’s comment and they defended Romney for trying to turn around failing companies and sometimes succeeding. With all of the conservative authenticity shooting stars (Bachmann, Perry, Cain), we have had a tipping point. There is this moment where a critical mass of the candidate’s supporters decide that they are tired of apologizing for them. It isn’t the last thing that does it. It is the accumulation of things where they finally decide that this candidate isn’t worth it and isn’t worthy of them and the candidate falls out of the top tier. In Iowa, it looks like we may be approaching that point with Gingrich. And when (if? – but I think when) Gingrich really starts to slide and when the positive Gingrich process stories (Gingrich leads polls in Alabama!) become negative Gingrich process stories (troubled Gingrich campaign fights to regain ground in Iowa), and the negative policy and personal attacks (federal insurance mandate! Freddie Mac!) are still going on, where do Gingrich’s former Iowa supporters go?
Yeah, I know I’m getting ahead of myself.