He has some strange ideas (such as having poor kids work their way through school to emerge without debt, by firing school janitors and letting poor kids clean floors instead).
But he has a photo that could tilt millions of Tea Party nuts his way in the Republican primaries:
And he has a defensible record (from the Republican viewpoint) against the simplistic right wing attack points:
Take a look at the "21st century Contract for America," Newt's clever attempt to update his winning manifesto from the 1990s. Immigration is item 6, and in it, Gingrich pledges to make English the nation's official language -- a big hit with elements in both parties -- while also focusing on expanding "legal" channels for people to immigrate. He also says he will "seal" the border by 2014. But there's none of Cain's over the top suggestion that the nation build a 20-foot fence that will "electrocute" anyone who enters illegally, or even talk of a crackdown on illegal hiring at the workplace, which divides GOP-leaning business conservatives from "restrictionists." And for all his talk of "legal" channels, Newt cleverly sidesteps the issue of "amnesty."
Gingrich has another key advantage: there are another half dozen GOP debates in the remaining 7 weeks before the early primaries, and this venue clearly favors Gingrich. He's shone brightly in several, especially the last two, and unlike Perry or Cain, he's unlikely to stumble. More than that, though, GOP voters are starting to realize that their nominee will have to go head to toe with Obama in a series of debates, too. And there's little question now who among the GOP candidates is likely to fare the best in that setting.
And this defence against an Obama attack:
Gingrich's role as the House GOP leader who forged bipartisan deals -- on welfare reform and NAFTA, among other contentious issues -- also threatens to neutralize another potent weapon in Obama's arsenal: Bill Clinton. Clinton, while in office, and even afterward, frequently complimented Gingrich for his willingness to compromise, and he may be hard-pressed to recant those comments should Gingrich get the nod.
Imagine all the TV ads that Gingrich could run with glowing praise from a former Democratic president extolling the virtues of Gingrich as a bipartisan deal-maker. So much for the GOP as merely the "party of no."
It's still early days, but to me Gingrich seems the guy who will be fighting Obama tooth and nail within a few months.