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What's Going on at 538?

Is Newt Gingrich the Real Deal?

When Newt Gingrich announced his candidacy for the Presidency back in May, the former Speaker of the House was polling around 10% in several national surveys. His experiences working with President Ronald Reagan coupled with his distinguished tenure in Congress were compelling reasons to justify his candidacy. Yet, after a series of early mishaps – including his decision to take an untimely overseas vacation in June with his wife prompting his staff to resign en masse – many questioned his commitment to winning the 2012 presidential race.


One of the factors – and there are many – that have revitalized his once fledgling campaign is his excellent performances in the Republican debates. In a recent Rasmussen Reports survey conducted on November 8, as Guy noted in his preview post yesterday, he is now polling at 19 percent in the Florida Republican Primary – only five percentage points behind Mitt Romney. And his latest performance, I believe, has only further established the former House Speaker as a genuine top tier candidate.

But what specifically about Newt is resonating with voters? From my point of view, I was particularly impressed last night with his response to a question about higher education. When asked if he supported the practice of providing federal student loans to undergraduates, he bluntly asserted that these governmental initiatives, in fact, are essentially making college less affordable.

“[The federal student loan program] allows students to stay in college because they don’t see cost,” he said. “It allows them to tolerate tuitions going up absurdly, and in return they stay in school longer,” he said.


In other words, the status quo is demonstrably unsustainable. Gingrich suggests the government needs to abolish all federal loan programs and fundamentally reform how our current system operates. By implementing a work-study curriculum – modeled on the College of the Ozarks, for example – Gingrich believes we can drive down costs and make higher education programs more efficient, affordable, and transparent.

“[Under this model] you have to work 20 hours a week during the year to pay tuition and books,” he explained. “You work 40 hours a week during the summer to pay for room and board. Ninety-two percent of the students graduate owing no debt.”

Indeed, whether or not Gingrich’s bold proposal can be practically applied anytime soon is up for debate, but what is increasingly clear is that the former House Speaker is the most learned candidate running for president. Drawing on his wealth of knowledge and years of experience in Congress, Gingrich adeptly understands the most trying issues of our time. His ability to answer complex questions, as he did Wednesday night, with specific and innovative solutions is emboldening his candidacy. After Rick Perry’s incapacitating gaffe – and Herman Cain’s demoralizing public relations blunders – Gingrich has emerged, for now, as the anti-Romney candidate.


But can he maintain his status as a top tier contender and win the Republican nomination? Earlier this summer I thought his campaign was finished – but given the recent events that have unfolded throughout the fall – I’m not counting him out.

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