Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich‘s political star continued to rise over the weekend with an endorsement from the powerful Manchester Union Leader and new polls showing him surpassing Ron Paul for second place in the key primary state.
“Newt’s on the rise, there’s no doubt about that,” a veteran GOP political operative told Capitol Hill Blue Sunday. “If he can maintain that momentum he could threaten Mitt Romney.”
Romney currently holds a 2-1 edge over his closest rivals in New Hampshire polls but the Union Leader endorsement of Gingrich was clearly a setback for the GOP frontrunner.
Wrote Joseph McQuaid, publisher of the paper in a front page editorial in Sunday’s edition of the newspaper:
We are in critical need of the innovative, forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing. A lot of candidates say they’re going to improve Washington. Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again.
But while the Union Leader endorsement is openly sought by candidates, it is a mixed blessing. The paper endorsed losers Steve Forbes in 2000, Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996 and former Delaware Gov. Pierre du Pont in 1988 but did give the nod to eventual GOP nominee John McCain in 2008.
Meanwhile, polls show Gingrich in a solid second place in New Hampshire polls, training Romney by an average of 36.8 – 18.5. Ron Paul is the biggest loser from the Gingrich surge, dropping to third — five percentage points behind Gingrich and 23 points behind Romney.
A Polling Company survey taken Nov. 18-21 shows Paul’s support slipping to 11 percent — just four percent above Jon Huntsman.