Gingrich slips, but Romney nod no sure thing

Will Rahn Senior Editor
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With former House Speaker Newt Gingrich‘s presidential campaign apparently losing some steam, there are signs that former Massachusetts Gov. and one-time Republican front-runner Mitt Romney could have the GOP nomination wrapped up by February.

New York Times polling guru Nate Silver sees signs that Gingrich is slipping in Iowa, where he was until recently the heavy favorite. Last week, Silver gave him a 1-in-2 chance of winning the state’s caucuses. Now he says Gingrich has only a 15 percent chance of winning, trailing Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s 44 percent chance and Romney’s 32 percent chance.

Gingrich’s support nationwide also appears to be ebbing. A Gallup poll released Monday showed Gingrich’s lead over Romney shrinking to just two points nationally, a twelve- to thirteen-point drop since earlier in December, while a CNN/Opinion Research poll showed the two candidates in a dead heat.

Part of the reason Gingrich’s standing in the polls has begun to falter has to do with the barrage of negative ads attacking his record. The well-funded campaigns of Paul, Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have all been taking shots at Gingrich, who has seemed hesitant at times to respond to their attacks directly.

“Watch TV here for two days,” Gingrich said to reporters in Iowa on Monday. “You get enough negative ads before you start answering them, your numbers go down for a while.”

Romney has been especially aggressive in dealing with Gingrich and is now spending large sums of money on ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. If he wins or does well in all those states, pundits note, Romney could have the nomination locked up earlier than even he was expecting.

“Romney is now playing for keeps in all four states, and the risk of that strategy — i.e., the media coverage of an under-performance in Iowa or South Carolina — is far outweighed by the potential reward of strong showings in all four January contests, which would give him a head of steam entering February,” wrote National Journal on Sunday.

“If that happens, it becomes academic: Nevada, Michigan and Arizona are February’s three major contests, and Romney is favored to win all three states,” they continued. “We may not be in for a long slog, after all.”

Veteran Republican strategist Mary Matalin, however, told The Daily Caller the race is still far too fluid for anyone to be making predictions.

Matalin notes that Republican primaries held before April 1 are not winner-take-all battles like they were in years past. That means that if Romney were to win, say, New Hampshire, where he is currently leading his rivals by more than ten points, other candidates would still pick up delegates.

Due to the new system, Matalin said that Romney would have to consistently grab upwards of 40 percent of the vote in early contests to avoid a drawn-out primary season.

But, she said, “even if he could do that, and he might with his new aggressiveness and earned media appearances (both really well executed), we still cannot predict with any certainly since we have no history with the lengthy proportional system which incentivizes second place and second tier candidates to stay in.”

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