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Reads and Reactions

In this edition: Newt Gingrich on the rise, fashionably late G.O.P. candidates and brokered convention conversations.


Newt Gingrich‘s rise in polls has led to much speculation about whether any of the current Republican presidential aspirants can marry support from both rank and file conservatives and the G.O.P. establishment. Mitt Romney, judging by his lead in endorsements, seems to have the support of Republican elites, while Mr. Gingrich, at the moment, has the advantage in popular support: a healthy advantage in national polls.

Given this, FiveThirtyEight laid out why a brokered Republican convention or a dark horse entrant into the nomination contest are plausible, although not exceptionally probable. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, however, sees a dark horse nominee or a brokered convention as not only possible, but — as long as Mr. Gingrich sits atop the polls — pretty likely. Mr. Klein wrote, “There’s just no way the Republican establishment lets Gingrich become their nominee.”

James Joyner at Outside the Beltway was skeptical, particularly of the late entrant possibility, noting that the filing deadlines for candidates to enter state primaries are a significant, if not prohibitive obstacle to any late arriving G.O.P. candidate.

At A Plain Blog About Politics, Jonathan Bernstein, too, thought that even if public opinion might leave an opening for another Republican candidate, the nominating process does not, we’re too far along. Business Insider’s Michael Brendan Dougherty was another dark horse doubter. Mr. Dougherty called discussion of even the possibility of a brokered convention “crazy talk,” and wrote, “almost every election season pundits and commentators predict the possibility of brokered conventions. Why? Because they are very exciting for pundits and commentators.”

Then, assuming there is a navigable path to the nomination available for a late entrant, there’s the question, who exactly would this savior candidate be? The Hill’s Christian Heinze wrote, “Except for Chris Christie, I can’t see one of the names floated as being plausible or a significantly better candidate.” Mr. Heinze followed with the flaws he sees in a Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels or Paul Ryan candidacy.

Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol mused that if the Romney and Gingrich campaigns stumble during January, a Republican white knight could ride to the rescue in the gap between the Iowa and New Hampshire contests and Super Tuesday (March 8). Mr. Kristol’s preferred knight: a Ryan-Marco Rubio ticket.

Mr. Gingrich’s new front(ish)-runner status was explored smartly by Liz Halloran at NPR, who pointed to FiveThirtyEight’s post, “How Safe Is Gingrich’s Lead in Iowa?” (kind of safe, as it turns out). The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn also wrote an interesting analysis of the campaigns of Mr. Gingrich and Mitt Romney, concluding that, “I’ll be surprised if Gingrich isn’t the clear Romney alternative when Iowans trudge to their caucuses on January 5 – and for some time afterwards.”

A few days after Thanksgiving, The Union Leader, New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, endorsed Newt Gingrich for president (Mr. Gingrich will have to wait till next year’s Turkey Day to give thanks). FiveThirtyEight found that candidates endorsed by the paper have generally outperformed their polling. Amy Bingham, at ABC News, looked at the role of newspaper endorsements in elections more generally and observed that “newspaper endorsements aren’t what they used to be.”

Finally, our comment-of-the-half-month goes to Dan from Cambridge, Mass. Writing in response to “Does Romney Have a Moderate Problem?” which highlighted Mr. Romney’s surprisingly weak support among Republican moderates, Dan wrote, “I also think his inevitability strategy is hurting him. He’s been playing prevent defense and that doesn’t make him appear as a strong candidate. He hasn’t done anything to take down the other GOP candidates, they have exposed their own flaws and fallen apart in the spotlight. Sitting back and hoping Obama falls apart is not a winning strategy.” Read the whole comment here. Dan’s comment was pretty prophetic actually, and Mr. Romney’s campaign must have agreed with him. A few days later the Romney campaign “opened a new, more aggressive phase to capture the Republican nomination,” wrote our colleague Michael D. Shear.


It’s another data visualization edition of Reads, but with a British tinge this time:

The BBC took some grisly data and put together an arresting graphic showing deaths and injuries on the roads of Great Britain from 1999 to 2010 (make sure you watch the video below the graphic).

The Economist plotted the correlation between public-sector graft and the U.N.’s Human Development Index.

On The Guardian’s DataBlog, a graphic by Information is Beautiful shows the scale of various disasters.

Also from The Guardian, a visualization of how rumours spread (and were squashed) during the August unrest in London.

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.