MILLER: Newt’s substantive surge

The former House speaker’s popularity is based on policy strength

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It’s no fluke that Newt Gingrich is the front-runner in the Republican presidential primary race. Some in the media credit his surge in the polls to his not being Mitt Romney or say he’s picking up Herman Cain’s former supporters. It’s more than that. The former House speaker is well prepared for his turn in the spotlight.

According to the latest CNN poll, Mr. Gingrich has the support of 24 percent of Republicans compared to 20 percent for the former Massachusetts governor. The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO is at 17 percent, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is in fourth place with 11 percent.

Broken down by issue, Mr. Gingrich was far ahead of the other candidates as most qualified to be commander in chief, most likely to keep the same position on important issues and tops in ability to understand complex issues. In other words, there’s substance behind the Newt surge.

On Monday, for example, Mr. Gingrich announced his “Growth and Innovation” plan, which includes creating personal savings accounts as an alternative to Social Security accounts; reforming welfare by block-granting all federal means-tested program funds to the states; and allowing seniors to opt out of Medicare for premium-supported private insurance plans.

Throughout the campaign, Newt has put forward the broadest and most in-depth written platforms on the issues. He was the first to call for pro-job-growth ideas such as eliminating the capital gains tax, lowering the corporate tax rate and creating the option of a flat tax for individuals.

Voters also can’t help but be impressed by Newt’s confidence on the stage, knowledge of the issues and ability to sidestep obvious traps. He regularly scolds debate moderators for deliberately provoking Republicans to fight among themselves.

Mr. Gingrich reminds his colleagues that their shared goal should be ensuring that Barack Obama is a one-term president. It’s obvious the former history professor would be more than a match for the former community organizer should they meet in the general-election debates.

Voters aren’t completely convinced quite yet, however. The CNN poll shows that GOP primary voters think Mr. Romney has the best chance of getting to the White House, by 19 percentage points. The money Mr. Gingrich has made from consulting with mortgage giant Freddie Mac is a problem, and expect reporters next to resurrect the stories on Mr. Gingrich’s marriages and divorces.

Many in the media love nothing better than building up candidates in order to tear them down. This creates drama that’s good for ratings, website hits and newspaper sales. They want us to think Mr. Gingrich will fail because his surge is just a fad. That would be a far likelier explanation if his current success were based on style. Far from it.

When he was House speaker, Mr. Gingrich proved he could balance the budget and enact landmark entitlement reform. He’s a known entity, not a flash in the pan. Republican voters take Newt’s candidacy seriously. So should the media.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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