Rich Galen

I understand that national polls traditionally haven't meant much, because voters in California and Missouri are not going to their local fire stations and high school cafeterias two weeks from tomorrow to vote in the Iowa caucuses.

But, with the advent of social media and the enormous attention being paid to the debates, the ebb and flow of support for one or another of the GOP candidates in national polls can't help but have an effect on voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and the other early states.

The biggest effect good national poll numbers is on fundraising. Donors in New York and California don't typically decide on which campaign to support solely based on how they're doing in Iowa or South Carolina, but in large part how they're doing in polls reported by Gallup and the Associated Press.

Newt Gingrich's income spiked when he lapped the non-Mitt Romney portion of the GOP field in national (and, to be fair, state-by-state) polling. The Gallup tracking poll which was first reported on December 5, had Gingrich at 37 percent nationally; a 15 percentage point lead over 2nd place Romney who drew support from 22 percent of respondents.

However, by this past Saturday, a mere 12 days later, Newt's lead had shrunk to only four percentage points - 28-24 over Romney. It is probably safe to assume the income is following the polling, although we won't know that until at least the middle of January.

We talked, last week, about negative ads and the fact that campaigns and third-party groups use them because they work.

In Gingrich's case there are two aspects which account for his nearly 25% drop in his support. First, he is the fourth choice of Conservatives - at least Iowa Republicans. Their first choice was Michelle Bachmann. Second was Rick Perry. Third was Herman Cain.

When the wheels came off each of those campaigns in turn, it was time to kick the tires of the Gingrich operation.

December 5, when Gingrich was at 37 percent, was two days after Herman Cain had announced he was suspending his campaign.

Second, Gingrich hasn't been a candidate for anything since November 1998 - 13 years ago. The only thing many Conservative voters remember about Gingrich was his having engineered the takeover of the House of Representatives in the election of 1994 (17 years ago) and stage managing the impeachment of Bill Clinton (again, 13 years ago).

Since then all the voters know about him are from his books, TV interviews (almost exclusively on Fox News Channel), and appearances on conservative radio talk shows. There may be no one better in politics today than Gingrich when it comes to answering the question he wants to answer, not the one that was asked.

Fawning studio hosts were not likely to try to make news by attempting to trap Newt in an answer he didn't want to give. Debate moderators and the other candidates for the nomination have not been as recalcitrant.

The anti-Gingrich barrage of advertising has had the desired effect. A number of late-coming Gingrich supporters have dropped back off his parade float.

As people are learning more about Newt's post-Speaker activities - lumped together as "Newt, Inc." - and hear him say things (as he did over the weekend) like he would ignore Supreme Court decisions with which he disagrees, they are meeting a Newt Gingrich with which they were not familiar and whom they may not like as much.

The Punditocracy will be at a fever pitch as it tries to determine the permutations and combinations of what various caucus night results will lead to. The polls are fun to read and analyze but Iowa Republicans will make the decision, which is exactly how it should be.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.