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Thus by process of elimination, it seems that the new ABM candidate will now be Newt Gingrich, who has risen steadily into third place behind Romney and the rapidly deflating Cain. With his rivals Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Ron Paul all polling around 10 per cent or less, the field is now open for Newt. It should really have been the former Speaker of the House in the first place. Like Huntsman, Newt Gingrich is a charming, intelligent and able man who makes a fine dinner companion, not least because of his Anglophilia and love of history. He has won all the Republican candidates' TV debates, greatly outperforming everyone else on the podium with his thoughtfulness, wit and rhetoric. He would pose a severe intellectual challenge to Obama in the presidential election debates, of which he has said he would like to have no fewer than seven, in the open-ended, unmoderated style of the 1858 debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. "I think I can represent American exceptionalism, free enterprise, the rights of private property and the constitution", Gingrich has said, "better than he can represent class warfare, bureaucratic socialism, weakness in foreign policy, and total confusion in the economy." With Obama shorn of his ubiquitous teleprompter in those debates, Newt might be right.

Yet Gingrich faces formidable hurdles in getting the GOP nomination, not least from the fact that his entire senior campaign team resigned en masse on June 9, citing his refusal to listen to them. (He went on holiday with his wife instead.) Until recently he only had campaign offices in Georgia and Florida, and has only recently opened up in vital Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Reports state that he has only just raised $2m in the last two months and has a mere $4m in the kitty, the kind of money Romney pulls in every week. 

The conservative Right doesn't wholly trust him. Gingrich's 23rd book, the environmentalist tract A Contract with the Earth, and his appearance on a public service broadcast about green energy alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the Tea Party's ultimate bugbear — might prove more problematic than the original Contract with America that shot him to fame in 1994. Many conservatives are not ready to forgive Gingrich for endorsing the moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava over the Conservative Party's Doug Hoffman in the special election in New York's 23rd congressional district, and back in 1997 he became the only Speaker of the House to be reprimanded for ethics violations, although 83 of the 84 charges against him were dropped. To ordinary Americans, Gingrich's name recalls the unhappy days during the Clinton administration when he shut down the US government over budget rows. With shutdowns looming in Washington today, it all sounds very retro.

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