Donald Lambro

Gingrich is the ultimate Washington insider who was on the payroll of Freddie Mac, the home mortgage giant at the heart of the subprime mortgage collapse that led to the Great Recession. He has lots of other baggage, too, from a notorious global warming TV ad with former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, not to mention three marriages.

But he valiantly fought back into political contention with a dazzling display of well-honed speaking skills in the debates, fueled by his encyclopedic memory of history and politics. His numbers rapidly zoomed ahead of his rivals.

Still, some of his ideas have gotten him into trouble, particularly his zany view that federal judges can and should be hauled before Congress to explain their rulings, and if they refuse, subpoenaed or even arrested.

This clearly violates the separation of powers doctrine set forth by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, which states in Article III: "The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme court." It doesn't say the judges can be forced to go before Congress when their decisions disturb lawmakers. Federal judges explain their decisions in their rulings.

Suddenly, his poll numbers began to tumble as a volley of attack ads by Romney and Paul hammered Gingrich as unstable, while Romney's and Paul's numbers rose.

Gingrich's campaign suffered further damage this past week when it was announced he had not secured the 10,000 valid signatures needed to get on the primary ballot in Virginia, where he lives. That magnified Gingrich's other weakness: lack of organization.

Romney, who has the best organization in the race, has struggled throughout his candidacy, too, as the GOP's broad conservative base saw him as someone who was too moderate for their tastes. Signing a health care bill the White House said was the model for Obamacare hasn't helped.

"Can we trust a Massachusetts Moderate to enact a conservative agenda?" the Gingrich campaign asked.

Romney's more aggressive TV ad campaign in Iowa has emphasized his conservatism -- vowing to cut the size of government, shrink spending and balance the budget.

His strong suit is his career as a businessman and an investor in enterprises that created jobs. He told a college student at a recent rally that if he is elected, "you will have a job when you graduate."

Still, his polls in Iowa have shown little if any growth for months, though he's moved ahead there in the past week. A recent Rasmussen poll showed 25 percent support for Romney, 20 percent for Paul and 17 percent for Gingrich.

Notably, Romney's support has risen in New Hampshire, where a Boston Globe poll showed him with 39 percent, while Gingrich and Paul were tied at 17 percent each.

In the meantime, just days before Iowa voters meet in 1,784 local precinct caucuses across the state to cast ballots, many are still undecided. The fact that half of all Iowans "are telling pollsters they could change their minds is unprecedented," said state chairman Matt Strawn.

But don't expect Iowa's arcane and lengthy delegate selection process to settle this three-man race, though it will winnow the field significantly, as it almost always does.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.