Newt's Moment: Will It Last?

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )

Say what you want about the demise of the American newspaper, more than a few people paid attention to yesterday’s New Hampshire Union Leader.

What everyone wanted to read was the paper’s endorsement of Newt Gingrich, which breathed more new life into a candidacy that was just a few months ago declared all-but-dead. Gingrich’s steady climb in the polls has yet to be cut short by a spate of negative pre-Thanksgiving press or the candidate’s controversial remarks about immigration at last week’s presidential debate.

And, over the weekend, the largest and most influential newspaper in one of the most important early primary states bestowed its seal of approval on Gingrich, contrasting him with rival Mitt Romney: “We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear.”

The Union Leader wrote: “We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing.”

What to make of it? The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin pointed out yesterday that the paper has “a lousy track record of picking winners. (It has previously endorsed Steve Forbes and Pat Buchanan.)” That may be the case, but the New York Times’ Nate Silver crunched the numbers and found that “on average, the candidates endorsed by The Union Leader finished with 29 percent of the vote in New Hampshire — an 11-percentage-point improvement from the 18 percent they averaged in the polls when the endorsement was made.”

We may not know whether the New Hampshire paper’s nod makes a big difference until Granite Staters go to the polls in January. Meantime, Newt’s biggest obstacle is to translate his success in the polls into success on the ground.

As one GOP strategist told The Note, “Newt’s challenge is campaign structure as much as anything.” He’s quickly trying to staff up in Iowa but even he recently admitted his operation isn’t ready for prime time. And, despite all the talk about a “paradigm shift” in presidential campaigning — retail politics out- debate exposure in — the only way to win a caucus is through organization.

Perhaps the more important question about Newt’s rise is what Romney does about it. Romney’s had the luxury of being able to avoid engaging his rivals — the media and his opponents, themselves, have done a better job of shooting their own candidacies in the foot.

Newt has shown a propensity to self-destruct, but with less than six weeks until the Iowa Caucuses, can Romney really take that chance?

Moreover, Gingrich is helped by the fact that the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign are training their fire on Romney with attacks that paint the former Massachusetts governor as a flip-flopper.

ROMNEY COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. From the New York Times’ Trip Gabriel: “A top aide to Mr. Romney predicted that the Gingrich bubble would deflate as others before it have. ‘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.’”

NOTED: As for Gingrich, he has no intention of slowing down after the Union Leader endorsement though he’s in South Carolina not New Hampshire today, ABC’s Elicia Dover notes. He will host a fundraiser at 5 p.m. and then participate in Congressman Tim Scott’s “First in the South Presidential Town Hall” at 7 p.m. He and his wife, Callista, played a round of golf in Naples, Florida yesterday.

ABC’s Jon Karl takes a closer look at how support from New Hampshire’s largest newspaper affects the presidential race on “Good Morning America” today. WATCH:


DEMOCRATS LAUNCH MAJOR ANTI-ROMNEY OFFENSIVE. The Democratic National Committee released an ad this morning that describes Mitt Romney as “two men trapped in one body,” ABC’s Emily Friedman reports. The 30 second ad, titled ”Trapped,” will play in six markets, including Albuquerque, Raleigh-Durham, Columbus, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, and Milwaukee. The DNC accuses Romney of being “Two Mitts willing to say anything,” a reference to his change in stance on abortion. In an extended version of the ad on the new website, the DNC edits together clips from the CNN debate in which Texas Gov Rick Perry suggested that Romney had hired illegal immigrants to do his yard work. While Romney is heard saying that he’s never hired an illegal immigrant in one frame, the next has him explaining how the company he contracted with had hired illegals without his knowledge. As ABC’s Jake Tapper notes, the video “could have been made by Perry, Gingrich or Bachmann.”

ROMNEY CAMP RESPONDS: “President Obama has failed to create a single net new job and has wreaked more havoc on the middle class than any president in modern history. The last thing the White House wants is to have to run against Mitt Romney and be held accountable for the many failures of this Administration. So, instead of focusing on the economy and creating jobs, President Obama and Democrats are focused on tearing down Mitt Romney,” said Andrea Saul, spokeswoman for Romney.


CAIN’S LATEST VIDEO: NO SMOKING BUT LIGHT ON SUBSTANCE. ABC’s Amy Walter gets a sneak peak at a new Herman Cain video: In an attempt to get his campaign back on track, and back to its original economic-based message, the Herman Cain campaign released a new video this morning called: “9-9-9 The Movie” Unlike Cain’s previous forays into campaign web video, there are no cowboys riding with yellow flowers or campaign managers blowing cigarette smoke into the camera.  Instead, it’s a more serious attempt to answer the questions and criticisms raised about  Cain’s “9-9-9? economic plan. In a style reminiscent of the documentary “Inside Job”, this video uses cartoon graphics and easy to understand language to try and deconstruct the 9-9-9 plan. Even so, the video fails to lay out any serious analysis to back up many of its claims.


@ rickklein : Don’t fret,  #topline fans. We are taking the week off from the show as we retool and develop some new digital products. Back soon – promise



THE ROMNEYS: FATHER AND SON. “To those who knew them, the ultimate proof of the two men’s bond was reducible to a question: How many fathers would look after their son’s girlfriend in his absence? So much did the teenage Mitt Romney trust in his father George’s wisdom that he gratefully accepted his assistance in nurturing his relationship with his old high school girlfriend and future wife, Ann Davies, during a long separation from her,” reports the Washington Post’s Michael Leahy. “The lessons handed down by the mentor included everything from a near-ascetic discipline to a low-key approach for defusing skeptics’ suspicions about their religion to the political principles that would shape the younger Romney’s life. ‘He has been my greatest influence,’ Romney says with a soft solemnity. … A popular Michigan governor, an evolving critic of the Vietnam War and a 1968 presidential candidate who led his Republican rivals in early polls until political catastrophe struck, George Romney often brought his youngest son along while campaigning. Former advisers admit to being stunned by how much Mitt looks like their old boss, marveling over the same square jaw and the thick, swept-back hair. But the memory of their relationship is complicated nowadays in Mitt Romney’s case, because his dad was a moderate with occasionally liberal fiscal positions, and Mitt Romney is trying to convince his Republican base that he likes none of those things.”

BEHIND THE KARL ROVE CURTAIN. Walter Shapiro, writing in the New Republic, looks at Karl Rove’s role in the 2012 election cycle: “Just four years after he slid out of the White House as the embattled Rasputin to a flailing president, Karl Rove has reinvented himself as the dominant private citizen in the Republican Party. He is today a driving force behind both the powerful advocacy organization Crossroads GPS and its even more influential sibling, American Crossroads, the largest SuperPAC on the right. Meanwhile, even as he has been raising money to defeat Democrats, the 60-year-old Rove has carved out a second career as a well-paid pundit for Fox News and as a columnist for The Wall Street Journal — and, in that role, he has been at times merciless in policing his own side of the political spectrum. As the Republican campaign has unfolded, Rove the pundit has frequently seemed offended by the self-destructiveness of every GOP contender not named ‘Mitt Romney.’ From the outset, Rove belittled longtime foe Rick Perry for reinforcing his dumb ‘cowboy from Texas’ image. He was scathing over Michele Bachmann’s false claims that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. And, after Herman Cain catastrophically botched a question about Libya, Rove dubbed him ‘not ready for prime time.’ The upshot of all this activity is that, for the second time in recent years, political junkies of both the right and the left are obsessed with Rove’s nefarious influence. Based on his Fox News critiques, some Tea Partiers, including Cain, believe that he is secretly in the Romney camp, even though Rove has never been close to the former Massachusetts governor. Democrats, in turn, seize on every TV commercial that American Crossroads puts on the air as evidence that Rove still practices guttersnipe politics.”

RICK PERRY ON LATE NIGHT. “Rick Perry is set to appear on his second late night show this campaign cycle on Thursday when he will be a guest on the ‘Tonight Show with Jay Leno,’ according to a promo run during Sunday night’s Pittsburgh Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs game,” notes ABC’s Arlette Saenz. “Perry made his campaign debut on the late night circuit earlier in the month when he read the Top 10 list on the “Late Show” with David Letterman in an attempt to make light of his debate gaffe when he fumbled the name of the third department he would eliminate as president.”

FIGHT OVER TEXAS REDISTRICTING MAP COULD HEAD TO HIGH COURT. “While most Americans were still recovering from their Thanksgiving turkey-induced comas, Democrats in Texas were getting one step closer to gaining three Congressional seats in the traditionally red state’s redistricting battle,” ABC’s Amy Bingham reports. “After Democrats and Latino groups filed a lawsuit against the map drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature, a San Antonio-based federal court redrew the map, which is expected to be finalized today. … The map, which adjusts the legislature-drawn districts in an attempt to better represent the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population, makes at least three districts more competitive for Democrats by eliminating a Democratic primary challenge in the Austin-San Antonio area and creating two minority opportunity districts. … State Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, immediately appealed for a stay on the map. … Abbott’s appeal will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices will decide whether to make the San Antonio court re-draw the maps.”



@ Chris_Moody : Sat down w/ Newt Gingrich this wknd in FL. We talked about pot, Cuba & the Secret Service. Story Monday

@ llerer : Romney in 2006 backed  @newtgingrichimmigration stance that he now calls ‘Amnesty’ – Bloomberg #2012?

@ HowardKurtz : Marco Rubio tells me GOP’s Hispanic problem can’t be solved by adding to ticket “someone whose name ends in a vowel”

@ jmsummers : Herman Cain to unveil national security/foreign policy strategy in a speech at Hillsdale College tomorrow, he says on Fox & Friends.

@ TimAlbrechtIA : GLEN’S BIRTHDAY: Happy birthday  @globeglen!



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