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If you think this Newt thing is about a passionate affection for the man or a long-standing loyalty among the conservative electorate for him, you're mistaken. And I'll take it a step further. I think Newt's debate performances have put him on the map, but if you think that alone is what is propelling his rise from the ashes, I think you're missing the bigger picture. Yes, there is a thrill that conservatives get - perhaps even up their leg - every time they see Newt deliver a strong debate performance, because they are so tired of the media portraying every conservative as some backwoods hick, country bumpkin, buck toothed moron. They can't do that with Newt. He'd eat them alive. But on its own, that's not what's fueling it either.
Now, don't get me wrong, I think the debate thing, the intelligence thing, I think that helps. I think it helps a lot. But alone, it's not enough. If Jon Huntsman would have had both those qualities it wouldn't have led to his serious rise in the primary. This is something that's happening at the grassroots level, from the bottom up. This is the base being exercised and being tired of squishy centrist and compromising approach with the liberalism that is killing our country.
The base is looking for a fighter and they see that in Newt. But more than just being combative, they see him fighting for things they believe in: defense of Israel, defense of human life, defense of fiscal restraint, changing the culture of Washington, defense of states' rights, defense of traditional values - that's why they are increasingly willing to overlook or forgive Newt's past failures and indiscretions. He's fighting for the right things.
Erick Erickson over at Red State said something similar in a recent post that I thought was an excellent analysis of why Newt's rising:
Newt Gingrich's rise has a lot to do with Newt Gingrich's debate performance. But it has just as much to do with a party base in revolt against its thought and party leaders in Washington, DC. The base is revolting because they swept the GOP back into relevance in Washington just under two years ago and they have been thanked with contempt ever since.
People are mad as hell they are about to be stuck with another boring, moderate, uninspiring choice that has at best a 50/50 shot at losing to the worst president since Carter. They are flocking to Newt not because they think he's a great guy, but because right now, he's the only one fighting for conservatism and GOP voters are looking for a vessel to channel their anger with Obama and their complete disappointment with the GOP establishment which is now embodied perfectly by Romney. They want a conservative fighter because most conservatives look back at Ford, Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush, and McCain and see only the ones taking a conservative path against the Democrats actually winning.
Trump was a flash in the pan last year, but it was because he took the fight to Obama. And all of the others (Bachmann, Perry, Cain, etc) got their rise because at the time voters sensed they would fight back with them. If nothing else, in the last year, Newt has proven he won't wilt like Mitt did yesterday under pretty basic questioning from Laura Ingraham or a month ago under routine questioning from Brett Baier.
Newt has taken the worst the media, Romney and the left can dish out, and he's still standing and fighting with passion and eloquence. Sure, he'd probably be an erratic President, but right now Republican voters don't care about his Presidency. They care about the fight with the left both Mitt Romney, and the Washington Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell don't seem inclined to engage in.
Basically, today's vote is about Republican grassroots giving the Washington Republican establishment the finger. The base is angry, and right now, only Newt is left to fight for them, as imperfect as he is.
This is exactly what is taking shape, as much as the elites in Washington and the media don't grasp it. Their rationalizations that Mitt is so much more amiable, more rigid, precise, polished and full of presidential decorum are so far away from what conservatives are most concerned about right now it's no wonder they seem confused by Newt's rise.
The conservative base is fed up with liberalism. They are fed up with liberalism in their schools, in their churches, in their government, in their culture, in their televisions, in their libraries, in their media that they are looking for an enemy of liberalism. They don't see that in Mitt. They see someone who wants to work together with liberals in Mitt. That's not what conservatives are looking for - no matter how much the media tells them they should be looking for it. They are looking for someone who will defeat liberalism, bury it and dance on its grave. And the one sending that vibe right now is the one who is surging to the front of the polls.