The best way I can describe Newt Gingrich’s ascendancy in the polls is like a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.
Over the years Newt Gingrich has been likened to many things. But I think this is the first time he has even been compared to cereal. But allow me to explain.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kellogg’s embarked upon a new marketing campaign for its flagship product. The commercial would begin with a black screen with the words, “Introducing a cereal from Kellogg’s.” We then see a man or woman presented with a bowl of cereal. The individual would not be impressed with its appearance since it didn’t have fruits, nuts, oats or marshmallows. In one of the spots a young man says, “Looks like a best seller to me. I mean there’s nothing here but flakes.” But then after tasting the cereal, he has a change of heart. Then the narrator chimes in, “Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.” The young man, stunned, asks, “Corn Flakes?” The narrator replies, “Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Taste them again for the first time.”
I submit that this is precisely what is happening with Newt Gingrich. At first glance, Newt’s candidacy appeared to have nothing going for it. He did not look like a best seller or a winner. But after listening to what he has said in various GOP debates over the past several months, Republican voters are having a taste of him again for the first time.
Consider some of Newt’s poll numbers. According to Gallup, after polling at 4 percent nationally amongst Republicans in August as of the first week of December his poll numbers have increased more than nine fold to 37 percent — fifteen points ahead of Mitt Romney. Most significantly, among voters 55 years old and older, Newt is preferred over Romney by a two to one margin (46% to 23%).
It is also worth noting that in the same poll Newt leads both Romney and Ron Paul among voters between the ages of 18 and 34, albeit by a smaller margin (26% to 21% to 18%). Yet these numbers are also significant. This entire demographic was too young to vote when Newt led Republicans to their first congressional majority in forty years back in 1994. This means if Newt captures the GOP nomination next year there will be a crop of first time voters who were born the year of Newt’s greatest triumph. These voters could very well take him even higher. Let’s keep in mind that Newt has not held elected office since 1999. While younger voters know who Newt is, they are more likely to know him as a pundit rather than a politician. This bloc of younger voters is actually having its first taste of Newt.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that during his time as Speaker, Newt left some Republicans with a bitter taste. Many of those people are still sour on him to this day and probably think a bowl of flakes would be a fitting description of him. However, we must consider the source of this discontent. To be precise, we must consider from where it is emanating.
Most of the bile can be found along the Beltway in and around Washington D.C. In recent days, we have seen articles assailing Newt from the likes of Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review, Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post as well as my American Spectator colleague Quin Hillyer. Newt’s rise is also arousing uneasiness amongst some Republicans on Capitol Hill such as John McCain and Orrin Hatch. But let us consider a Gallup Poll released late last week which indicated that 76 percent of registered voters believe most members of the House and Senate do not deserve to be re-elected. With Congress being held in about the same esteem as ex-football coaches from Penn State, there’s a good chance that the public won’t be inclined to listen to long held grudges against Newt from Washington.
This isn’t to say that Newt is guaranteed to be the Republican standard bearer and one could rightly fault him for immodesty when he declared he would be the GOP nominee earlier this month. Yet while it is possible that an event or a series of events could cause Newt to fall out of favor as one Newt supporter recently put it, “I can’t imagine what dirt they’ll dig up on Newt that hasn’t already been dug up. There’s not going to be any surprises, I think.”
People who are supporting Newt understand that he is far from perfect. But then again, who amongst us is? In 2008, we elected a President who claimed that his time in office would mark the point in history when “the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” In June 2009, Evan Thomas of Newsweek said this man was “standing above the country, above the world, he’s sort of God.” As recently as a week ago, Piers Morgan described him as “just perfect.”
Well, President Obama is not God and he is certainly isn’t perfect. He’s not even Jimmy Carter. Somehow I doubt God would leave us $15 trillion in debt and travel all over the world to apologize for America’s deeds. America voted for perfection in 2008 and look where it has got us. At this point, Americans will take palatability over perfection. It could very well be that Americans will decide that Newt Gingrich will leave America with a better taste in its mouth and will pour a bowl for him.