Some very interesting observations in the DC Examiner today from FOR (that's Friend of Ricochet, for the uninitiated) Byron York:
For days, there's been talk of a Newt Gingrich boomlet in the Republican presidential race here in Iowa. After Friday night's Reagan Dinner at Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines, that Gingrich boomlet talk might turn into talk of a Gingrich boom.
Five candidates -- Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul -- addressed a crowd of about 1,000 GOP faithful at the state Republican party's biggest fundraiser of the year. In brief interviews after the dinner -- the only question was which speaker did the best job -- audience members were unanimous: Gingrich, Gingrich, Gingrich.
... In a dozen interviews, the score was Gingrich 12, the rest of the field 0.
... [Newt] appears to be on the move; in other Iowa surveys, Gingrich has broken into double digits after being in the low- to mid-single digits as late as August. And in conversations with a lot of Iowa voters in Des Moines and around the state in the last several days, it's remarkable how many voters named Gingrich as their first or second choice. If any frontrunners fade -- and given recent experience, that seems likely to happen -- Gingrich seems poised to make real progress toward a place in the top tier.
I suspect this is our trajectory for the remainder of the race. With Bachmann and Perry marginalized, and Herman Cain regularly demonstrating that he has a hard time bearing the scrutiny that accompanies being a front-runner, Newt slowly but steadily becomes the conservative alternative.
Don't get too comfortable if you're in the fervently anti-Romney camp, however. The reality is that Newt has never had to endure the spotlight that comes with being at the front of the pack either. And the second that he does, the allegations about his personal life --- ignored when he was seen as little more than an eccentricity on the trail -- will come back with a vengeance. This is still Mitt Romney's race to lose -- and given that caution seems to be the cardinal value of his campaign, knocking him off his pedestal is going to be a very difficult proposition.