THE MORNING LINE -- December 5, 2011 at 8:22 AM EDT
Gingrich Leads GOP Field in Iowa, Surges in New Hampshire
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich attends a forum on manufacturing in Pella, Iowa, last month. Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images.
One month out, there is a clear front-runner for the Iowa Republican caucuses: Newt Gingrich.
The former House speaker claimed the top spot in a pair of polls released over the weekend, both of which showed him with comfortable leads ahead of the Hawkeye State's Jan. 3 nominating contest.
The first wave of good news from Iowa for Gingrich came Saturday with the release of the Des Moines Register poll.
The survey had Gingrich leading the GOP pack with 25 percent, followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 18 percent and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 16 percent.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann received 8 percent, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum each got 6 percent. Herman Cain, who announced Saturday he was suspending his campaign, plummeted from 23 percent in October to just 8 percent.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who early on made the decision to skip Iowa, drew 2 percent.
On the surface, the poll numbers are a positive sign for Gingrich, but as the Register's Jennifer Jacobs writes, they also look good when you drill down deeper into the results.
One striking finding: The results show Gingrich's ascendancy has the potential to grow, pollster J. Ann Selzer said.
More respondents choose Gingrich as their second choice than any other candidate. Together, 43 percent of likely caucusgoers pick him as first or second.
With Cain's departure from the race, Gingrich will likely benefit. More Cain supporters name Gingrich as their second choice than any other candidate.
The second batch of favorable poll numbers came Sunday, with the release of the NBC News/Marist survey that showed Gingrich with 26 percent support in Iowa, compared to 18 percent for Romney and 17 percent for Paul.
And with Cain out of the race, Gingrich's standing jumps to 28 percent, followed by Romney and Paul with 19 percent each. Perry is favored by 10 percent of respondents, trailed by Bachmann at 7 percent, Santorum at 6 percent and Huntsman at 2 percent. Nine percent remain undecided.
The poll also revealed that 40 percent of Republican caucus-goers responded they strongly support their choice of candidate, while the same share of respondents -- 40 percent -- said they somewhat back their pick. Nearly a fifth, meanwhile, indicated they might change their mind, which could offer a glimmer of hope to those candidates looking to stage a late run.
Gingrich will look to build on his Iowa momentum Monday with the release of his first television ad in the state.
The spot, called "Is the America We Love a Thing of the Past? Newt Says No," runs 60 seconds and mixes classic American imagery with Gingrich speaking directly to the camera.
"Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past," Gingrich begins the ad by saying. "I don't believe that. Because working together I know we can rebuild America."
A Gingrich victory in Iowa might propel him even further in New Hampshire, where he trails Romney by 16 points, according to a second NBC News/Marist poll released Sunday. Romney received 39 percent compared to Gingrich's 23 percent in the survey, a lead that is half what it was the last time Romney's strength in the Granite State was tested in October.
Paul placed third with 16 percent, followed by Huntsman at 9 percent, Bachmann and Perry each with 3 percent and 1 percent for Santorum. Cain had received 2 percent in the survey.
Beyond New Hampshire, one area where Romney is outpacing the GOP field is in endorsements from Republican lawmakers.
And many members of Congress who served under Gingrich when he was speaker have remained silent, but with his recent rise, that pattern may not hold for very long.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., had some harsh words for Gingrich on Sunday, saying he would "have difficulty supporting [Gingrich] as president of the United States."
"The thing is there are all type of leaders. Leaders that instill confidence, leaders that are somewhat abrupt and brisk, leaders that have one standard for the people they are leading and different standard for themselves," Coburn said on Fox News Sunday. "I found his leadership lacking."
Still, it's worth noting that for most GOP voters, Gingrich is a known quantity, and that includes his strengths and weaknesses. For the moment, at least, they seem to think the former outweigh the latter.
But as Cain's collapse has demonstrated, a lot can change in a month.
NOT GOING AWAY
At one point earlier this year, Donald Trump led national polls for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. After dropping what many saw as a vanity bid, Trump hasn't drifted quietly away from the political process. And now that he has a new book out, Trump is back in the limelight, securing the responsibility of hosting a Dec. 27 presidential debate and saying he's considering a third-party bid for the White House.
Trump's role as adviser to the Republican candidates continues Monday morning when he's scheduled to meet with Gingrich, the new GOP front-runner.
Trump told the Wall Street Journal's Patrick O'Connor that he's left the door open to jumping in the race himself:
"I absolutely have another bite," Mr. Trump said in an interview. "If the economy continues to be bad and if the Republicans choose the wrong person, I would do it."...
"You need a big name, and you need big money," he said. "And guess who's got that?"
Trump's new book, "Time to Get Tough," which outlines his policy views, could be one reason he's keeping his name in the public sphere.
But Trump's return to actual importance in the race via the debate hasn't been welcomed by some of the candidates. Paul's campaign issued a lengthy statement about why the candidate wouldn't be a part of the debate.
Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton ripped into Trump:
"The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office's history and dignity. Mr. Trump's participation as moderator will distract from questions and answers concerning important issues such as the national economy, crushing federal government debt, the role of the federal government, foreign policy, and the like. To be sure, Mr. Trump's participation will contribute to an unwanted circus-like atmosphere."
Huntsman has also declined to participate in the debate, while Gingrich has accepted, according to USA Today.
A VOTE ON CORDRAY
Richard Cordray, President Obama's nominee to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will get a vote in the U.S. Senate Thursday, marking the next step in a showdown between Senate Republicans and the White House over how to regulate the financial industry.
Cordray, once Ohio's attorney general before losing his 2010 re-election bid, was tapped as the nominee after Senate Republicans blocked the nomination of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor who generated the idea of the agency. Warren is now running for Senate in Massachusetts and has generated a passionate following among liberals in the Democratic Party.
But Cordray's fate doesn't look much better: In May, 44 Republican senators who want a board to run the agency instead of a single director have pledged to block any nominee to run the agency, barring those and other changes. That's enough to prevent the White House from getting the seven Republicans they need to join Democrats in order to allow the nomination to go forward with 60 votes.
The Hill's Erik Wasson reports that the White House will go on the offensive to pressure senators to confirm Cordray:
"White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House will be targeting senators from seven states with a media and lobbying offensive. Alaska, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, Tennessee and Utah are to be the focus of the administration's efforts.
"Certainly this would be among the more aggressive efforts that the president has undertaken to get a nominee confirmed," Earnest said.
The White House released a report Sunday outlining why it needs a director immediately in order to realize its goals for Wall Street reform:
"CFPB's inability to exercise its full authority while it awaits a Director affects the lives and financial security of tens of millions of American families who rely on non‐bank financial institutions for their financial needs. Indeed, whether it is shopping for a mortgage or private student loan, or having one's credit report used in a lending decision, many middle class families are reliant upon non‐bank financial actors."
ON THE TRAIL
All events listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama is in Washington holding meetings at the White House.
Rick Santorum campaigns in Iowa, hosting a pair of town halls: in Sioux City at 10:30 a.m. and in Le Mars at 1:30 p.m. He also attends the Sanborn Winter Gala at 6:30 p.m. and holds a rally at 8:30 p.m.
Newt Gingrich meets with Donald Trump in New York and hosts a media availability at the Union League Club at 1:45 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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