But the beating he took at the hands of Republican rivals Thursday night, coupled with signs of slippage in polls, suggests the current GOP frontrunner has peaked and now starts the downhill slide that has marked the rise and fall of others who held court at the top of the crowded pack of candidates.
The first hour of the Fox News debate proved particularly tough for Gingrich as opponents battered him for fat cat contracts with Freddie Mac, ethical lapses during his political career and a long history of multiple marriages and extra-marital affairs.
He rebounded some in the second hour but viewers of the debate probably came away with more questions about the man currently at the top of the GOP heap.
Gingrich took a pounding from Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul and he sought once again to cast himself as a national celebrity on the world stage — a strange defense that might not play well with his target audiences.
The debate beating, however, is just a postscript to Gingrich’s problem in the polls. Rasmussen’s Poll this week shows the former frontrunner now trailing Mitt Romney by three percent while a Public Policy survey puts him in a statistical dead heat with Ron Paul.
Gingrich has slipped four points in the RealClearPolitics roundup of polls. Gingrich’s favorability among GOP voters has dropped 20 points in the past week.
“The slide has started,” a worried Gingrich strategist tells Capitol Hill Blue. “In this election year, once a Republican frontrunner has started to slide, it’s over.”