The Fall And Rise Of Newt Gingrich (The Note)

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

Nothing has happened in quite the right order for Newt Gingrich.

His bid for the Republican presidential nomination appeared to be over almost before it started when, in June, nearly his entire senior staff jumped ship. Fast forward five months later, and the question a little over a month before Iowans gather for their first-in-the nation caucuses is whether Gingrich’s recent momentum will be stunted by looming issues about his past.

As new details about his consulting work for the mortgage company, Freddie Mac, continue to emerge, Gingrich’s statement at a presidential debate last week that he merely “advice as a historian” looks more and more disingenuous.

As he was campaigning in Iowa yesterday, Gingrich’s explanation of his work for the company, which paid him between $1.6 and $1.8 million, changed to “strategic advice over a long period of time.”

“I was glad to offer strategic advice and we did it for a number of companies and Gingrich Group was very successful,” he said in Iowa yesterday. And, later in the day, during a radio interview Gingrich said he advised Freddie Mac in 2006 about the coming housing bubble.

“I spent a fair amount of time trying to suggest a totally different model, where if you wanted to expand the number of people owning homes, you need to expand the number of people capable of owning homes,” Gingrich said. “You don’t just give people a house, because they have no idea what they’re doing.”

But as ABC’s Huma Khan notes, sources told Bloomberg News, which broke the story of his hefty consulting fees, that Gingrich neither predicted the housing bubble nor did he raise concerns about Freddie Mac’s business model.

It’s a damaging narrative for the Gingrich campaign, but will it endanger the former House Speaker’s standing among voters? A new Fox News poll shows Gingrich in the top spot nationally, pulling in 23 percent support compared to Romney’s 22 percent. But Gingrich might want to heed the lessons of Herman Cain, who dropped 9 points in the Fox survey to 15 percent after weeks of sexual harassment allegations.

And with the stability of Gingrich’s rise an open question, two other candidates, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, are each is struggling to find a way back into the top tier. Both have taken very different paths to try and get there.

Perry is going after Obama — hard. First there was his new negative television ad titled “Lazy.”

“Can you believe that? That’s what our president thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy?” Perry says in the ad released yesterday. “That’s pathetic. It’s time to clean house in Washington.”

There are  personal attacks too.

“He grew up in a very privileged way,” Perry said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last night. “You know he never had to really work for anything and he never had to go through what Americans are going — you know there’s 14 plus million Americans sitting out there some of them watching this program tonight that don’t have a job.”

And then there’s Bachmann, who appears to have decided that the best way to move ahead is by trying to plow under her fellow Republicans starting with Gingrich.

“Fannie and Freddie, as you know, have been the epicenter of the financial meltdown in this country,” Bachmann said at a campaign event in Iowa yesterday. “And whether former Speaker Gingrich made $300,000 or whether he made $2 million, the point is that he took money to influence senior Republicans to be favorable toward Fannie and Freddie.”

ABC’s Jonathan Karl wraps up the latest developments in the controversy enveloping Gingrich on “Good Morning America” today. WATCH:

And ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd told George Stephanopoulos that “the expiration date on Newt is a little bit longer than the other candidates.” WATCH:


UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS ON THE CAIN TRAIN. Several accounts have emerged overnight of rough and unfair treatment by security personnel surrounding Herman Cain toward the reporters trying to cover him. Here are two:

From the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake: “A bodyguard for presidential candidate Herman Cain got a little physical with a Post reporter at an event in Iowa on Tuesday in the midst of the campaign’s battle to regain its footing in the wake of damaging sexual harassment allegations against the candidate. When the bodyguard asked the reporter (okay, me) to move to a different location while waiting for Cain to exit the Machine Shed restaurant here, I politely declined. After a little back-and-forth, the bodyguard made it known that he would physically prevent me from asking a question of the GOP presidential candidate, and then started backing into me with his back and shoulder. The incident wasn’t what I would call violent. In any case, it offers a window into the Cain campaign’s dealings with the press at this pivotal point in the race.”

From CBS News/National Journal: “Three members of Herman Cain’s campaign team apologized on Wednesday after a local police officer who said he was there to protect the Republican presidential candidate manhandled a reporter. The incident happened when several journalists who have been covering Cain regularly tried to film the candidate as he was returning to his campaign bus after an event here. As the journalists trailed Cain, the officer, who was in plain clothes, blindsided National Journal/CBS News reporter Lindsey Boerma into the side of the campaign bus. Moments later, as journalists circled around the bus toward Cain, the same man stuck his arm out and clotheslined Boerma. The man refused to identify himself. He implied he was a police officer when he suggested that one of his ‘buddies’ in uniform could give the reporter a ride in the back of a police car. When other journalists began videotaping him, he pulled out his cell phone and started recording the press. ‘I’m an independent reporter,’ he said.”


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: SANDER LEVIN. ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter interview Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich. Also on the program, Steve Bell of the Bipartisan Policy Center.   Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  


DISPATCHES FROM DOWN UNDER. Our ABC News White House team is traveling with President Obama on his trip to Australia and Asia this week. Two slices of life on the president’s trip from ABC’s Jake Tapper:

DARWIN, Australia — “Aussie Aussie Aussie!” President Obama yelled in a Royal Australian Air Force hangar containing 1,650 Australian troops. “Oi Oi Oi!” they yelled back. President Obama spent much of his Thursday solemnly honoring the service of U.S. and Australian troops and Marines, but he took a note while addressing troops — 55 U.S. Marines were also present in the hangar — to try out that cheer, and to mention “the most unique gift I’ve ever received.” Paul Henderson, the chief minister of the Northern Territory today presented President Obama with crocodile insurance. Henderson told Sky TV that “we’ve got the crocodile insurance ready to go for Michelle and the kids — 50 grand if the president does get taken. We don’t think that’s going to happen, but it should provide a little bit of reassurance.”

A Wary President Obama Heralds Progress in Burma. “In his address to the Australian Parliament Wednesday, President Obama encouraged Burma’s recent steps towards reform, while also urging that more be done,” Tapper notes. “Praising ‘institutions upon which good governance depends,’ human rights, an informed citizenry, and open government, the president said ‘these principles have guided our approach to Burma, with a combination of sanctions and engagement.’ President Obama mentioned how Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from her 15 years of house arrest, and noted that some ‘political prisoners have been released, and the government has begun a dialogue.  Still, violations of human rights persist.  So we will continue to speak clearly about the steps that must be taken for the government of Burma to have a better relationship with the United States.’”



WHEN WILL THE GOP GET COMFORTABLE WITH MITT ROMNEY? “Republican primary voters are torn between their confidence in Mitt Romney’s professional competence and doubts about his political character,” reports Bloomberg’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis. “Likely caucus and primary participants in Iowa and New Hampshire view the former Massachusetts governor by wide majorities as smart, business-savvy and fit to be president, according to Nov. 10-12 Bloomberg News polls conducted in both states, where the first primary contests will be held. Yet substantial numbers, almost half in Iowa and two out of five in New Hampshire, also view him as someone who will do or say anything to get elected, ‘a flip-flopper,’ or not a true social conservative. Those warring impressions help explain how Romney has attained front-runner status in national polls while remaining unable to secure enough backing to break away from his rivals.”

ROMNEY ON OBAMA’S ‘LAZY COMMENTS: Romney went on the Sean Hannity radio show where he criticized President Obama again for suggesting Americans are lazy, ABC’s Emily Friedman notes: “I think the President fails to understand America. I don’t think he understands what makes America work. I think he honestly believes that a government in Washington with well-intentioned bureaucrats can do a better job guiding the country than can free individuals and free enterprises. And as a result government gets larger and free enterprise decides to pull back.”

TODAY ON THE TRAIL: Romney has several private fundraisers and no public events today. He will first be at a luncheon in Knoxville, Tennessee where Romney’s state director has predicted he will raise $250,000. He will then go on to Lexington, Kentucky, to an evening fundraiser at the Kentucky Aviation Museum.”

@ BenLaBolt : DNC VIDEO: Oops! Perry and Romney’s latest attack called inaccurate, fanciful, distortion

RON PAUL’S HEALTHCARE PRESCRIPTION. “Ron Paul warns that America’s health care system is in dire need of reform and that more government intervention is not the answer,” ABC’s Jason Volack reports. “Speaking at a health care series on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Paul told the crowd of mainly congressional staffers that President Obama’s health care initiative falls short in controlling spiraling health care costs and improving delivery. Paul favors Americans transitioning into medical savings accounts. Paul said his system would not only increase competition and improve technology, but it would bring down prices for everyone. Paul added that his system prevents rationing, which he predicts will occur.”

RICK PERRY WANTS TO DEBATE OBAMA. “In a VFW hall in downtown Nashua on Wednesday afternoon, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was confronted by a voter’s concern that his debate skills might impede his run for the presidency, especially should he become the Republican nominee and face President Obama in the general election,” writes ABC’s Arlette Saenz. ‘You’re much better out here away from that podium. How are you going to defeat Obama considering you’re not a very good debater?’ an audience member asked during the question-and-answer session. ‘I relish the day. We’ll have a lot of debates. I’ll get there early,’ Perry responded. ‘And talk about the future of this country because that’s what people want to hear. Who knows how to get America back working, and I’ve got the track record and the outsider of Washington D.C. to do it. I can’t wait to get started.’”

WILL RICK SANTORUM BE THE NEW COMEBACK KID? From the Huffington Post’s Jon Ward in Anamosa, Iowa: The only Republican presidential candidate yet to have his moment in the spotlight could not tear away from an elderly woman on Wednesday who was advising him about home therapies for common illnesses, such as “onion juice.” … Finally, the former senator from Pennsylvania excused himself and turned to answer a reporter’s question about whether he’ll ever catch a wave like the one former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is riding right now. “These things come in four week increments,” Santorum told The Huffington Post. “Newt is finishing up week one. Herman [Cain] had about a month. [Rick] Perry had about a month. Michele [Bachmann] had about a month. The timing may be just about right for us.” It sounds delusional just from looking at the polls, where Santorum remains stuck at around two percent, to think that he could become the hot candidate. But if anybody is positioning himself to be the last candidate standing in the race to provide conservatives an alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney, it is in fact Santorum, the 53-year old father of seven.



@ globeglen : MITT ROMNEY: Globe story about e-records actions underscores long campaign for president…  #fitn  #magov  #mapoli

@ mlcalderone : Cain sits down with Union Leader editorial board today. No cameras.

@ stephenfhayes : In SC this past wknd, I was surprised by number of SC GOPers said they either don’t care abt – or will look past – Newt’s “baggage.” Most.

@ jmartpolitico : Hard to overstate how much newt appeal w Rs is based on how well they think he’d debate Obama

@ rickklein : this bugs me. surely Newt knows the constitutional problems w/ two Georgians on a presidential ticket.



* Herman Cain heads to New Hampshire where he’ll speak at a large campaign rally in Nashua.

* Newt Gingrich is campaigning in Florida where he’ll address a Tea Party Town Hall in Jacksonville.

* Rick Perry will hold a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi.

* Rick Santorum spends the day in Iowa traveling from Iowa City to Des Moines.

* Jon Huntsman will tour a gun factory in Newport, New Hampshire.

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