Last week, as disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) saw his presidential ambitions imploding, he told the AP there was nothing to be concerned about. His national effort, Gingrich said, is a “genuine grassroots campaign,” the likes of which we only see “once or twice in a century.”
Of course, “genuine grassroots campaigns” tend to enjoy considerable support from, you know, actual people. Gingrich, in contrast, is widely disliked, even among Republicans.
It’s been a while since Gingrich actually held public office — he was driven from Congress 13 years ago by members of his own party — but for those who’ve forgotten, the former Speaker was widely reviled by the American mainstream. During his brief reign, Gingrich was generally perceived as an ill-tempered, petulant buffoon of weak moral character.
More than a decade later, Newt’s standing with the public hasn’t improved much at all.
Gingrich has completely tanked with Republican voters, providing real confirmation that his campaign rollout has been a total disaster. Only 38% of GOP voters have a favorable opinion of him and there are now more, at 45%, with an unfavorable one. I doubt anyone has ever been nominated for President who ever had negative favorability numbers within their own party less than a year out from the primary season.
Remember, this is just among Republicans.
With the public at large, Gingrich has a stunning 19% favorability rating, a number Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen described as “remarkably bad.” (For comparison purposes, the same poll put Sarah Palin’s favorability rating at 30%, which is awful, but is still 11 points higher than Gingrich’s.)
From time to time, we’ll see analysis pieces on whether a candidate can win national office if he or she suffers from some kind of perceived personality flaw — dull, angry, inauthentic, arrogant, etc.
But with Gingrich, the question is a little different: can a candidate win national office when the public has gotten to know him and Americans actively dislike him? I’m guessing the answer is “no.” Call it a hunch.