Newtonian Motion: Underlying the Decidedly Undead

Back from the dead. Again. Newt Gingrich. Amazing, isn't it?

What's actually amazing is that Gingrich was "dead" in the first place.

The fact is that the ex-House speaker had the Republican race in his hands last month and then proceeded to blow it.

And Mitt Romney is one of the most hollow, and hyped, political figures to come down the track in some time. He's a consultant culture dream candidate: Big money and heavily into "messaging." However, messaging, i.e., constantly repeating crafted talking points, is often not the same as having a message, which is why what he says is so malleable and chameleon-like. It's obvious that there is very little that interests Romney besides success.

"It's alive!" That's Gene Wilder with Teri Garr and Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein.

It's a combination of unforced Gingrich errors, erroneous media coverage, and Romney's nature peeking out all too often from behind the slick facade that has led to these seemingly shocking twists and turns.

Gingrich should have taken command of the race in December. Instead, he portentously declared that he would be the nominee and oddly proceeded to avoid any real campaigning, allowing Romney's super PAC operatives to get the jump on tearing him down, until the tide had turned decidedly against him.

But Romney is Romney, and Gingrich has skills, so between Romney's radical capitalist contradictions coming to the fore -- complete with his bizarre attacks on any criticism of Wall Street ways -- and Gingrich's ability to get back in debates, the undead has risen. No wonder that Romney is now trying to skip future debates.

As with the first, Gingrich won the second South Carolina debate of the week last night on CNN. It would have been hard for him to lose it after the way it opened.

CNN moderator John King, rather amazingly, opened the debate by asking Gingrich about allegations from his second wife Marianne Gingrich, just aired on ABC less than two days before the pivotal primary, that he had asked her for "an open marriage" over a decade ago when they were still married.

King acted like a stage show prosecutor, but served only to set himself up for one of the most memorable media beat-downs in a long time.

Newt Gingrich wrecked CNN moderator John King in last night's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina when the unfortunate fellow opened the debate by asking him about his ex-wife's allegation that he asked her for "an open marriage." The audience gave Gingrich a standing ovation.

"I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate with a topic like that," Gingrich said as the debate crowd went wild. "Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."

King then tried to recover by saying that it was another network that first aired the interview with Gingrich's ex-wife, only to have Gingrich interrupt him: "It was repeated by your network."

"You chose to start the debate with it," Gingrich said. "Don't try to blame it on somebody else."

Game over.

Meanwhile, a new Public Policy Polling survey Thursday night showed Gingrich holding a 6-point lead over Mitt Romney, who had held a big lead at the beginning of this very eventful week.

This is consistent with, in fact better than, what I reported Wednesday night on my New West Notes blog with an Insider Advantage poll giving the ex-House speaker a smaller edge over Romney.

It's Gingrich 35%, Romney 29%, Rick Santorum 15%, and Ron Paul 15%.

A new poll on Friday from Clemson University also gives Gingrich a 6-point lead over Romney.

A caveat. People are only now beginning to learn of his ex-wife's dramatic and salacious charges against Gingrich. That could impact his big lead among evangelicals.

Or not. Rick Perry sought to inoculate Gingrich as a reformed sinner yesterday morning when he pulled out of the race to endorse him. And Gingrich has previously acknowledged behavior he regrets, behavior which has been widely reported.

Gingrich's caddish behavior is legendary. The only question is whether people buy him as a reformed "sinner," or spurn the sex police altogether.

So Gingrich is back from the dead, again.

But it's not that hard for a truly capable campaigner, which Gingrich, for all his foibles, is, to come back against a weak field and the always weak frontrunner that Romney is. The reality is that Romney has been borne aloft for months on a sea of media hype.

Despite what the media has been reporting for more than two weeks, and as my New West Notes blog has warned right along, Mitt Romney did not win the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses. Rick Santorum finished first. Oops. So much for all the commentary about Romney's historic sweep of the first two contests. This is a good example of why I mostly stopped watching U.S. cable news a long time ago.

For one thing, Mitt Romney didn't finish first in the Iowa caucuses, despite that "fact" having constantly been reported. The Iowa Republican Party finally finished a canvass of the vote, which it had been loathe to do, and found that Rick Santorum actually finished first, by a 34-vote margin, as distinguished from Romney's ballyhooed for weeks 8-vote "victory."

I've questioned Romney's so-called Iowa victory right along. But most of the media went merrily along with the myth of a Romney win.

And not just the obvious 24/7 pro-Romney spinners in the supposedly objective element of the news media, such as Politico and Time Magazine's Mark Halperin operation.

For another, far too many journalists have accepted Romney "inevitability" spin all along, dependent as they are on political consultants for their insights. Romney, with no real ideas of his own beyond making a ton of money, is an ideal candidate for the consultant culture. Gingrich, who has, if anything, too many of his own ideas -- and who can barely conceal his belief that most journalists are, well, not very bright -- is anything but a consultant's dream.

So we bounce forward, into an uncertain future, with the decidedly undead risen again and Barack Obama smiling.

You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ...