Newt Gingrich: Romney's real threat?

Published: Monday, Nov. 28 2011 9:00 a.m. MST

Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, left, speaks as Mitt Romney, listens during the CBS News/National Journal foreign policy debate at the Benjamin Johnson Arena, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 in Spartanburg, S.C.

Richard Shiro, Associated Press

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Much to the chagrin of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich is showing signs of being more than just another flavor-of-the-month Republican candidate.

New Hampshire's largest newspaper, The Union Leader, issued a front-page editorial Sunday endorsing Gingrich.

"We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job. … We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear."

Politico's Maggie Haberman called the endorsement "the most significant and impactful endorsement in the GOP race so far"; the Washington Post notes, "The Union Leader's endorsement is a coveted one in the GOP presidential race, given the conservative lean of the paper's editorial board and its influence in the first-in-the-nation primary state."

Gingrich's newfound viability, though, goes well beyond a single newspaper endorsement. He leads Romney in four major national polls by an average margin of 23.8-21.3. Also, an article in Monday's New York Times reports that Gingrich is raising significantly more in campaign contributions than at any prior point and newly hiring campaign staffers in critical early-voting states Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

With a quotation attributed to "a top aide to Mr. Romney," the same New York Times piece captures Team Romney's sentiments regarding Gingrich's recent rise: " 'You don't have to go deep here,' the aide said, referring to controversial stances and personal baggage from Mr. Gingrich's past. 'It ranges from immigration to ethics to being a Washington insider to Freddie Mac to you pick them.' "

As the Romney aide references, immigration has been a major sticking point for Gingrich since the Nov. 22 Republican presidential debate when he said, "I don't see how the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter-century. And I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, 'Let's be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so they are not separated by their families.' "

However, the chorus of voices praising Gingrich's immigration stance is swelling by the day. National Public Radio recently ran a piece titled, "Could Gingrich Immigration Stance Be Shrewd Move?"

A Sunday editorial by Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer concluded, "What's needed is updating immigration laws to make them economically advantageous and socially practical. Gingrich's proposal, while limited in scope, at least brings some rationality to the debate among Republican hopefuls."

Also Sunday, the Deseret News staff editorial lauded Gingrich's approach to immigration.

"As voters become engaged with the complex issues surrounding immigration, we hope most will come to welcome the kind of moral leadership articulated by Gingrich on immigration during this most recent debate. Whatever his other advantages or shortfalls, on immigration, Gingrich has it right."

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

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