The Republican nomination: The day of the Newt
Left for dead in the summer, Newt Gingrich is now leading the Republican pack
“GOD”, explains Newt Gingrich, in response to a question about his health, “wanted me to be a bear, not a gazelle.” And yet after months of ursine shuffling and growling from the rear of the Republican presidential field, he has sprung to the front ranks, barely four weeks before the first primaries. Mr Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, now leads Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts and his closest rival, by several percentage points in most national polls. He is the front-runner in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida, the first, third and fourth states to vote, and appears to be trimming Mr Romney’s lead in New Hampshire, the second. Mr Romney has been a far steadier force in the race, seeing off a parade of candidates who have soared in the polls only to fall back again. But he has never built a commanding lead—and Mr Gingrich suddenly finds himself the candidate best positioned to claim the “anyone-but-Mitt” mantle.
It helps that the previous claimant, Herman Cain, a pizza mogul and radio host, is seeing his support wither, thanks to a series of allegations about his sex life. No fewer than four women have accused him of sexual harassment. This week another woman claimed to have had a 13-year affair with him. Mr Cain admitted to knowing his accuser, but insisted that their friendship was entirely platonic. His lawyer, however, issued a peculiar non-denial that focused instead on his client’s right to privacy in the bedroom. The chairman of his campaign in Iowa helpfully noted that Bill Clinton had overcome similar obstacles to claim his party’s nomination. Mr Cain was said to be asking big donors whether he should continue his campaign, but publicly proclaimed, “9-9-9! We’re doing fine”—a reference to his signature tax-reform plan.