Slow, Steady Climb To The Top For Gingrich This summer, the former House speaker's campaign seemed to bottom out when most of his staff quit. Now, the 68-year-old finds himself in the top tier of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. He credits his rise in the polls to his "serious, substantive approach" to the issues.
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For Gingrich, A Slow And Steady Climb To The Top

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For Gingrich, A Slow And Steady Climb To The Top

For Gingrich, A Slow And Steady Climb To The Top

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.


I'm Robert Siegel. And we begin this hour to the right of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Many Republicans have long worried that Romney just isn't conservative enough, so they've thrown their support behind candidates who surge in the polls, but then seem to stumble for one reason or another - Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and now Herman Cain, who continues to struggle under the pressure of an ongoing sexual harassment scandal.

RAZ: Well, a new CBS poll shows another conservative riding a surge, Newt Gingrich. He's tied for second place with Mitt Romney, right behind Herman Cain. The former House Speaker has been campaigning in New Hampshire, where he opened his state headquarters today. NPR's Brian Naylor recently spent some time with Gingrich and sent this report from Manchester.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: For 68-year-old Newt Gingrich, who had been languishing in the second tier of contenders in the crowded GOP field, his slow but steady climb into the top rank is a vindication. His campaign bottomed out in June, when most of his staff quit. There were the revelations about his line of credit at Tiffany's, and a sense he was a vanity candidate, running for office as a way to plug his books and movie projects.

Now, he says, Republican voters are paying attention to his message.

NEWT GINGRICH: I think we're in a period where people want substance, because they think it's real. This isn't just politics. This is history, this is the future of our country. And so I think, gradually, I'm getting more and more rewarded, if you will, by support for having a serious, substantive approach to how do we govern America.

NAYLOR: History is a recurring theme with Gingrich. He peppers his remarks with historical anecdotes and factoids. And hearing him is a little like sitting in on a survey class of world and American history. Not surprising, since Gingrich used to teach such a course before getting into politics. Here's a sampling from an appearance last night.


NAYLOR: Gingrich spoke last night at a candidates' forum in southern New Hampshire, sponsored by the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC. Along with history, Gingrich also addressed current events. He dismissed the congressional supercommittee trying to cut the deficit in Washington as a failure. He blasted the Obama administration for actively opposing anti-immigration laws passed by Arizona and Alabama and criticized House Republicans, whom he used to lead, for not fighting back.

GINGRICH: The idea of the Obama administration filing a lawsuit against an American state is just simply unimaginable. And the fact that we have not introduced an amendment and cut off all funding to the Justice Department to finance this, I think, is just a failure of imagination among the House Republicans to understand. Cut off the money.

NAYLOR: Gingrich brought the group to its feet when the moderator asked him what he sees as the biggest constitutional failing of the Obama administration.

GINGRICH: Not understanding which country he's president of.

NAYLOR: That kind of red meat positions Gingrich to fill the space to the right of Mitt Romney. And it goes over well with Republicans like Margie and Jeffrey Diggins of Fremont, New Hampshire, who both wore Newt 2012 stickers.

MARGIE DIGGINS: He's the smartest man in any room, and I would love to see him debate Obama. I just think that would be a great thing for America.

JEFFREY DIGGINS: Newt Gingrich is the most honest, honorable person running for the Republican ticket. When I think about my granddaughter and about my daughter and my family, I can't think of anyone else that I'd rather have as president of the United States than Newt Gingrich.

NAYLOR: Gingrich appears to have benefited from stumbles by others in the race, like Texas Governor Rick Perry and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. He's pinning his hopes on finishing in the top three in Iowa and close to Romney here in New Hampshire, and then winning South Carolina and Florida. If that scenario seemed highly unlikely last spring, it's a little less so now. And if he pulls it off, Gingrich will be making some history of his own.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Manchester.

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