If you want to understand what Republican primary voters are thinking in flocking suddenly to Newt Gingrich, nobody is closer to those voters than Rush Limbaugh. I highly recommend you read Rush’s explanation of what the voters are seeing in Newt right now and what he has to do in order to seal the deal with them going forward. Sample:
Let me tell you why Newt Gingrich won South Carolina. Let me tell you why he’s coming on. It is ’cause he is able to articulate conservatism, nothing more. John King, Juan Williams, could have asked any other Republican the same questions they asked and they would have shriveled away in abject fear and defensiveness. If any of the Republican candidates had the same life story as Newt, or had said the same things about food stamp president and all that, Juan Williams’ question to Romney wouldn’ta helped Romney. John King setting up Romney, if Romney had three ex-wives and one of them was saying he wanted an open marriage, would not have mattered. It wasn’t those questions. It was that they asked somebody who can articulate conservatism.
To those of you in the Republican base, this isn’t complicated. Newt is winning. He is on a momentum roll here because he can articulate conservatism, that and he’s willing to take it to Obama.
Which is a large part of why my preferred candidates – Pawlenty and Perry – fell by the wayside; Pawlenty wasn’t willing to take the fight to Mitt Romney face to face, and Perry was seen as unable to properly communicate. Of course, Newt doesn’t just have rhetoric; he has a record, with real accomplishments both political and legislative, and the scars to show for it. That’s a point I’ve made repeatedly: voters can and should want candidates who have proven the willingness and ability to put themselves out there and take heat for their positions. Newt’s record has – as Rush notes – plenty of flaws in it as well, but as Phil Klein neatly summarizes, the difference between Gingrich and Romney is that Romney really has no such earned good will to fall back on.
UPDATE: Ace has some wise words for Romney.