Newt Gingrich rolls with the punches to give opponents a headache

 

Los Angeles

For now, the Newt Gingrich bandwagon rolls on.

The former US Speaker enhanced his standing in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, emerging virtually unscathed from his first debate since assuming the mantle of frontrunner from Mitt Romney.

In Des Moines, Iowa, Gingrich spent two hours of Saturday night parrying assaults on his character, marital fidelity, political consistency, business career, and foreign policy credentials, as rivals attempted to find a productive line of attack for the days and weeks ahead.

The fact that he managed to roll with the punches leaves other candidates with a growing headache this late in the political calendar. There are just 22 days to go until the Iowa Caucuses, and Gingrich now has a clear lead in every early-voting state with the exception of New Hampshire.

Thus far, the GOP race has resembled a game of musical chairs, with first Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, and more recently Herman Cain enjoying spells as the most talked-about alternative to Mitt Romney, the longstanding favourite who has nonetheless failed to increase his support above a lukewarm 28 percent in the polls. But their support has tended to collapse under proper scrutiny.

By contrast, Gingrich was a case-study in steadiness. He dealt calmly with criticisms of his private life, acknowledging that he has “made mistakes” in past marital infidelities and  saying he is changed from the errant husband who has famously cheated on not one, but two  ex-spouses.

“I’ve had to go to God for forgiveness. I’ve had to seek reconciliation,” Gingrich said, stressing his conversion to Catholicism and suggesting that his days of sexual adventure are past, saying: “I am a 68-year-old grandfather.”

On the foreign policy front, Mr Gingrich doubled down on controversial comments he gave to a Jewish television station last week, in which he claimed that the Palestinians were an “invented people” and described them as “terrorists.”

“I think sometimes it is helpful to have a president of the United States with the courage to tell the truth, just as was Ronald Reagan,” he said, to warm applause from the overwhelmingly conservative audience. “I will tell the truth, even if it’s at the risk of causing some confusion sometimes with the timid.”

Later, Gingrich turned around an attack by Mitt Romney on his alleged status as a “career politician,” pointing out that Romney has spent most of the past 20 years seeking high office, but has consistently failed to win high-profile elections. “The only reason you didn’t become a career politician is, you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994,” he said.

It was a notably poor night for Romney, who at one point committed what pundits called an unforced error by seeking to casually strike a $10,000 bet with Texas Governor Rick Perry over a disputed point of fact regarding healthcare.

The size of the proposed wager served only to highlight the vast wealth Romney has made in the venture capital industry, which critics say makes him out-of-touch. Seeking to gamble also puts Romney at odds with the teachings of the Mormon Church, in which he is a former bishop.

Perhaps the only real blow against Gingrich came via Michele Bachmann, who mocked him for his recent carrer lobbyist on K Street (“The Rodeo Drive of Washington DC”) and criticised him for having in the past taken allegedly-liberal positions on healthcare and climate change.

Ms Bachmann, who is still pitching herself as a right-wing alternative to establishment candidates, claimed that Gingrich and Romney share centrist positions on an array of topics, and dubbed them: “Newt Romney.”

That nickname, which amused many in the audience, seems likely to be given another airing at the next GOP debate, on Thursday in Iowa. In the meantime, one person who will be cheering Gingrich's rise is Barack Obama.  A new NBC poll suggests he would narrowly lose the key states of Florida and Pennsylvania to Mitt Romney next November, but is in line to beat Gingrich there, handily.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
Paul McCartney backs the
people
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone