The Newt implosion is here — at least, the rapid shift in conventional wisdom against the mistaken idea that he had an excellent chance to win the nomination. The last polls haven’t been strong for the disgraced former Speaker, and a new Rasmussen sounding has him slipping behind Mitt Romney in Iowa. This morning I’ve flagged at least three stories about The Fall of Newt, and for what it’s worth his shares at Intrade have tanked, dropping from close to 40% a week ago to as low as 15% chance at the nomination at one point today before recovering some.
Of course, the conventional wisdom can be way off the reality of the contest. The polls have shifted, yes, but not nearly enough for anyone who thought Gingrich was unstoppable last week to believe he has no chance this week.
Now, those of us who believed he had no chance last week believe that this is just a case of everyone waking up from a silly dream — the polls were always mostly a mirage, proving only that virtually anyone can have a short-term surge. But if you thought Newt’s connection with GOP voters was forged in battle in 1994 and at least somewhat unshakable, then a couple mediocre polls shouldn’t change that, should it?
What I think you’re seeing here is to some extent normal press bandwagon behavior. It’s also, however, the effect of GOP opinion leaders who just don’t want Newt Gingrich to be their nominee. Because they’re perceived as experts, and if they haven’t endorsed anyone neutral (within the GOP) experts, they have a strong say in the spin that will be accepted by the press. And so if they interpret a bad poll for Newt as a big deal, reporters are apt to accept that. The more that highly visible Republicans are eager to bash Newt, the more that his good news is going to be muffled and his bad news amplified. And that’s almost certainly even more true within the partisan press — I’d love to find out how much time Newt’s generally well-received performance in Saturday’s debate picked up on Fox News, for example, compared to his Romney-bashing outburst a couple of days later.
So the real news isn’t so much that Gingrich has slipped a bit in the polls. The real news is how many Republican Party actors want him to be slipping in the polls. And usually that’s the sort of wish that finds a way of making itself come true.