If you believe Rasmussen, Newt Gingrich has picked up 31 percentage points against Mitt Romney (from 22 down to 9 up) among Florida likely voters in the space of two weeks. By all accounts, Newt's extraordinary performance in the debates leading up to the South Carolina primary was the proximate cause of his victory there, and thus the momentum that he's carrying into Florida. We've always known that having a way with words, especially with the unscripted words that can't be transmitted to a candidate by way of speech writers and teleprompters, is an important asset on the campaign trail. It clearly becomes all the more important an asset to the extent votes turn on the performance of the candidates in televised debates.
Let's stipulate that Newt's gifts as an extemporaneous rhetorician give him a leg up over Romney in the Republican primaries and probably would give him a leg up over Obama in general election debates. No one will argue with the proposition that Gingrich's fluency will help him make a case for himself as the Republican nominee and a general election candidate. But Newt's fluency is his case for his own presidential candidacy. At least you'd get that impression from this spot:
Has there every been a serious presidential candidate whose principal claim to a major party presidential nomination is less a matter of who he is or what he'll do as president, than how glibly he'll speak on the campaign trail? Ask yourself this: what does Gingrich regard as the most important thing to do after he gets to the White House? Although I've been paying pretty close attention, I couldn't begin to tell you. (I couldn't tell you off the top of my head with Romney either, but I'd know where to look it up.) But I know all about how, if he wins the nomination, Gingrich will challenge Obama to a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates and, unlike the president, he won't need a teleprompter.