Gingrich Stumbles, and Romney Sighs Relief

The Newt that went up appears to be coming down.

After leading the Republican field for almost a month, Newt Gingrich's support in Iowa has finally shown signs of faltering, creating an opening for one of the GOP stragglers - namely Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry - to try to inch their way into the top three in the state's upcoming caucus.

As he led the pack, Gingrich told ABC News confidently on Dec. 1 that "it's very hard not to look at the recent polls and think that the odds are very high I'm going to be the nominee." As the most recent recipient of inflating poll numbers, Gingrich seemed poised to storm into the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3 with a strong showing, at the very least scaring Mitt Romney, who has held steady near the lead for the entire race.

But like Bachmann, Perry and even Herman Cain, Gingrich appears to have been pulled back to the ground, letting Romney breath again.

"A trend like this going into Christmas week is bad," Tucker Carlson, the editor of the conservative-leaning Daily Caller website, said on Fox News on Monday. He called Romney "a beneficiary of these trends."

Nationally, Gingrich's support has fallen, though not as rapidly as in Iowa,  according to Gallup's daily tracking survey. He peaked at 37 percent to Romney's 22 percent at the beginning of December, and is now at 26 percent to Romney's 24 percent. Ron Paul, who has surged in Iowa, is at 11 percent nationally.

Gallup calls the Gingrich-Romney standings "statistically tied." The poll's margin of error is 3 percent.

As Gingrich has sought to portray himself as the most conservative candidate to take on President Obama, Tea Party suitors like Bachmann and Perry have amped up their rhetoric on the campaign trail. Perry has called being gay a "sin" and told Methodists to take their faith into the "public arena." And as time runs out in Iowa, Bachmann has challenged Gingrich on issues related to abortion.

Those elements, combined with shots at Gingrich from Romney and Paul, who are now leading in Iowa, have dropped the one-time front-runner to his current standing, said Tom Mann, a campaigns analyst at Brookings.

What might have done Gingrich in, Mann suggested, is his latest suggestion that as president he could have judges arrested for disagreeing with him.

"It shows it's an entirely stable pattern, the rise and fall of the anti-Romney candidate. Newt just appears to be the latest example of that," Mann said. "It's all directed at a particular candidate who rises, and then, once it's there and people see, they drop their support for that candidate and kind of move off randomly to other people without really knowing how they're going to vote."

Democrats, meanwhile, have been undeterred by the fluctuating polls and have continued to aim almost all of their fire at Romney. On Monday morning, the Democratic National Committee was circulating an ABC News story on Romney's financial trust.