Gingrich repeatedly stressed that he would ultimately be the nominee. His stump speeches focused not on the other candidates in the race, but on his own ideas for changing Washington, rather than, as he put it, "managing the decay." At the 2011 debates, where Gingrich shined, he refused to attack fellow Republicans when given the opportunity, channeling his vitriol toward Obama, or even the debate moderator.
It wasn't until the end of 2011, when hopes for Herman Cain faded amid allegations of sexual harassment, that many Republicans began to give Gingrich a serious look. With Cain's popularity on the decline, Gingrich's poll numbers skyrocketed.
By that point, several of the staff members who abandoned him in June for other campaigns had returned. "It's good to have some old friends come back," Gingrich's spokesman R.C. Hammond said at the time. But the campaign suffered from the lack of staff and resources--Gingrich did not establish an office in Iowa until mid-December.
In the weeks leading up to the caucuses, Gingrich vowed to run what he called a "solutions-oriented campaign" and refrained from negative attacks on his opponents. But when he came in fourth place in the Iowa caucuses Gingrich changed his strategy. From then on, he played offense. And with decades of practice battling Democrats in Washington, he was exceptional at it.
From the moment he touched down in New Hampshire in January, Gingrich, who for months had held his tongue-- something he admitted was not an easy thing for him--unloaded on his rivals. He directed most of his attacks at Romney, whose allies had spent millions trying to bring Gingrich down in a nasty, and successful, ad war.
On the trail in New Hampshire, Gingrich hit Romney from every angle: criticizing him for his management of Bain Capital, calling him a "Massachusetts moderate" (and later, a "liberal"), and knocking him for implementing a health care plan as Massachusetts governor that included an individual mandate for state residents to purchase insurance. He also told supporters that Romney implemented a tax on the blind and later misleadingly told voters that Romney tried to block Holocaust survivors from receiving kosher meals in Massachusetts nursing homes.
After failing to place among the top three finishers in New Hampshire, Gingrich's meteoric rise appeared to have stalled. That would all change when he won the next contest in South Carolina, a victory that breathed life--and much-needed cash--into his campaign.
Gingrich won South Carolina by a wide margin. Unfortunately, his southern victory would mark the highest point in his campaign. He wouldn't win another state besides Georgia, which he represented in Congress for two decades.
On the campaign trail, Gingrich mastered the art of targeting local issues, confidently offering voters state-specific answers. He employed this strategy with such frequency that Romney criticized him for pandering. When a man expressed concern during a Manchester town hall about veterans' access to medical services, the Gingrich campaign drew up a plan that day to build hospitals in northern New Hampshire. Gingrich presented it at a rally that evening.