Gingrich Gains Ground After Rocky Campaign Start

Candidate's slow but steady upswing in polls


After his presidential campaign got off to a bumpy start, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says the campaign's on solid footing, and it appears to be showing in the polls.

Just days after his May entry into the race, Gingrich took heat for referring to Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare overhaul plan as "right-wing social engineering." Then there were the questions about at least one six-figure credit line at Tiffany's.

In early June, most of Gingrich's staff resigned. At the time, sources said staffers disagreed with Gingrich's strategy of maximizing social media and debate performances instead of traditional campaigning. Of those who departed, Gingrich now says, "They were wrong, making assumptions that just were not right."

Fox News polling may vindicate the plan. In July, when potential GOP primary voters were asked who they'd like to see as the nominee, 9 percent picked Gingrich. He has steadily crept to 12 percent in polling released just days ago. "Every week we do a little better," Gingrich says.

During the same time period, AP-GfK polling measuring the candidates' favorability has been shifting to Gingrich's advantage as well. Since July, the number of people who view him favorably has moved from 26 percent to 35 percent, while his unfavorable rating has dropped from 59 to 51 percent.

Despite progress for the campaign, the candidate still faces significant hurdles. GOP strategist Karen Hanretty says the first is financial.

"It takes a lot of money to get your message on the air, to reach as many voters as possible," she said. 

It's a challenge Gingrich acknowledged while campaigning in South Carolina over the weekend. "I need your help," Gingrich said, adding, "I don't have the kind of money my major competitors have."

Hanretty also warns that Gingrich must beef up his presence in Iowa ahead of the crucial Jan. 3 caucuses. "He needs a very well-organized ground game, boots on the ground, and he doesn't have it right now."

What Gingrich has is plenty of confidence. He points to his third place showing in last week's CBS News/New York Times poll and notes that's just where John McCain sat back in 2007, before going on to win the GOP nomination.