It’s been a wild ride for Republican presidential challengers in Iowa, and Newt Gingrich is the latest candidate with motion sickness.
Gingrich, the former U.S. House Speaker, finished a distant fourth in Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation presidential contest.
Predicting the winner of the Iowa GOP caucuses had been nearly impossible, with candidates taking turns sliding up and down in the polls in the months before.
“This has been such a wild ride here,” said Ken Brolin, a Gingrich campaign volunteer and owner of TSS Photography in Richmond, Va.
While his wife and son were at home running the business, Brolin has been in Urbandale, Iowa the last nine days making about 175 calls a day, running errands and coordinating rides to make sure supporters get to the caucuses.
Brolin said he supports “Teflon Newt” because he “can stay on message. He doesn’t attack, he responds. He sticks to the issues. He sticks to the solutions.”
But Brolin may not have a chance to vote for his favorite candidate since Gingrich didn’t get enough signatures to get on the ballot in his state.
“We hope by Super Tuesday (March 6) Newt will be our guy,” he said.
Thought to be a front-runner just a few weeks ago, Gingrich has been hit with negative ads, which some say caused him to slip to the bottom of the polls.
But at least one voter disagrees.
“Being in Iowa, I’m used to seeing ads. I tune them out. You could spend millions in negative ads and that won’t matter,” said Des Moines resident Seth Hall, 35, who sells outsourced benefits administration services.
Hall said he thinks Gingrich is “not the right leader at this time, but he’s got the right ideas.”
His choice, Mitt Romney, “has been the most consistent in his message,” he said.
Margo Gunderson (right) and Elsa Gunderson (center) color signs at Newt Gingrich's Iowa campaign headquarters. The Gundersons traveled from California to help Gingrich, a family friend. (Photo by Sara Mays)
Hall wasn’t the only Iowan who considered Gingrich but voted for another candidate.
“I like Newt. He’s very bright, but he’s very disorganized,” said Val J. Smith II, 61, a financial adviser with Edward Jones.
“He didn’t do a good job of putting his campaign together,” he said.
Smith said his choice, Ron Paul, has the best “financial footings” to put this country back on the right path.
Packed into a crowded gymnasium at Merrill Middle School – “Home of the Mustangs” – Hall and Smith sat on bleachers with other Des Moines residents listening to campaign supporters speak passionately about their chosen candidate.
Kevin McLaughlin, Polk County GOP chairman, told fellow caucus-goers they should vote for Gingrich because he can give them “security, freedom and prosperity.”
Newt Gingrich's grandson Robert Cushman (left) and friend Will Formisano color signs in the former congressman's campaign headquarters. (Photo by Sara Mays)
With the New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida primaries now the focus, one political science professor said Gingrich still has a chance.
“I think he has a political life left for him in this race,” said Steffen Schmidt of Iowa State University, who’s studied and analyzed the Iowa caucuses for four decades.
Schmidt predicted Gingrich would not finish in the top three, but he said Iowa is different from South Carolina and Florida.
“He can go there and do well,” he said.