As November nears, the RealClearPolitics average of national GOP polls shows Gingrich within reach of the top tier. He’s holding onto fourth place with 9.2 percent support, only 3 points behind Perry. And two October surveys — one by Public Policy Polling and another by Rasmussen — show him in double digits.
Even with the positive debate response, however, Gingrich’s nose remains pressed to the glass, as he hopes for a final, fleeting shot. In background conversations, top GOP consultants say the rise of Cain and Perry’s bank account may be too much for him to overcome in a compressed time period. “He’s calm, we’re calm,” Hammond says, when pressed on the odds. “Things in all the states remain fluid, even in New Hampshire, where Mitt Romney’s support is as thick as a November ice on Lake Winnipesaukee.”
Wait and see — that is the Gingrich mantra. In coming days, his team does not expect him to go negative against Cain, the latest Republican hotshot, but to poke holes, in a friendly manner, in aspects of the 9-9-9 tax plan. When Perry unveils his flat-tax proposal this week, look for Gingrich to trumpet his own flat-tax plan, which he released earlier this year. He’ll also likely challenge Perry to explain specifics, such as his chosen rate.
Meanwhile, finally, the campaign will spend some coin, opening offices in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. An outpost in Miami will expand, as will the operation in Atlanta, where the campaign’s main call center is housed.
And to the joy of political junkies, Gingrich will join Cain for a one-on-one discussion at a tea-party forum in Texas next month, an event the campaign hopes will spark tea-party voters to reconsider, on a policy basis, their Cain support. The battle for the “non-Romney” slot in the primary, at least in Newt World, has only begun.
— Robert Costa is a political reporter for National Review.