Newt Gingrich, the Republican front runner for the 2012 U.S. presidential election, is indeed emerging as a colorful personality.
After initial campaign setbacks that he faced due to his personal history, Gingrich surged to the top of the contenders' list. But his emergence as a serious contender also raises interesting questions.
Despite facing and admitting to infidelity and extramarital affairs in the past, Gingrich continues to be a favorite among Republican supporters in many states. Especially when such issues are regarded as a serious offence and have forced candidates like Herman Cain to withdraw from the race.
To understand the uniqueness of the Newt phenomenon, it has to be examined on the basis of the Republican Party's core principles, his fellow candidates, his interesting but contradicting personality and, above all, his media strategies.
The former U.S. Speaker is a Washington insider and a seasoned politician. He seems to be a contradicting personality - one who contradicts not just himself, but also his party. The core value of the GOP is its conservative attitude and the strong social and family values. Gingrich is a strong advocate of conservative social values and speaks against gay rights, which make him look like a typical Republican candidate. But then he has admitted to infidelity, a grave deviation from his party principles. Gingrich had two divorces and is currently with his third wife, with whom he had an extramarital affair when he was still married to his second wife.
Again, he called Palestinians invented people and terrorists. Also, he had a tough time facing allegations of making a fortune by offering consultancy services to Freddie Mac, for whose bailout billions were spent, much to the chagrin of taxpayers.
But the most interesting fact is that he remains unscathed by all these allegations. Despite heavy odds, he remains in contention and is, in fact, a front runner at the moment. His support among the Republicans is swelling. He has gained support from even social conservatives like the evangelicals and has emerged as the one who can fight President Obama.
The seasoned politician in Gingrich has helped him achieve what looked impossible a few months back. More than sheer luck, the credit should go to his intelligent media campaign.
The Newt camp, which was very much aware of its candidate's history, was well prepared for the onslaught. His aides timed it just right, then dumped the dirty laundry out in time and claimed a clean house.
Gingrich, on his part, did not shy away from accusations. Instead he faced them head on. At times he offered blunt rebuttals, as he did on the allegation of consulting for Freddie Mac. At other times, he admitted mistakes and asked for forgiveness. Gingrich has been candid about his past right from the start. I've made mistakes at times, he said. I've had to go to God for forgiveness. I've had to seek reconciliation. God may have forgiven him, but it remains to be seen if the Republican supporters in Iowa, New Hampshire and Ohio are in a mood to forgive him as well.
Gingrich has one of the best media strategies among the Republican candidates. The credit goes to his strong oratorical skills and his understanding of how the new age media works. He is aware of the basic tricks in exploiting the media for his benefit and, unlike his fellow contestants, he seems to know what he speaks in public. He looks less confused in debates and gives intelligent answers even when facing criticism. He always seems to know what to say and how to say it right for the media.
As part of its strategy, his campaign has kept him accessible to the media. This strategy has helped him get better news space and build a positive rapport with the media. This has directly and indirectly contributed to his campaign success.
How far the Gingrich team can sustain intelligent campaigning will determine his chances of winning the Republican candidacy. So far, everything looks promising for Gingrich. If no more dirt emerges from his past, he has a greater chance of facing incumbent president Barack Obama in next year's elections.