It’s very simple, and frankly, quite obvious.
Newt’s recent surge in the polls, mostly in SC, is entirely dependent on Newt’s ability to out debate Romney. Let’s get real clear on one thing though, debates may win the primary, at least up to this point, but they won’t in the long run, and here’s why:
Gingrich’s power comes from his ability to demean and reverse words on his moderators and fellow candidates. If you remove that ability for Newt to attack his chief rival without looking Petty and off topic, Newt loses his biggest campaigning tool. Newt does not have money. He doesn’t have organization. If Romney doesn’t go to the debates and goes hardcore grassroots campaign, he’s under Gingrich’s radar and people will be just watching Gingrich, Paul and Santorum.
The same applies to Gingrich in the national general election. Obama has little to gain as a front runner in debating Gingrich. Sure, Gingrich may smoke him, but he can’t out raise him, and he can’t out campaign him. Newt’s strength is his downfall. Newt may well win SC, but expect both the Romney campaign and the Obama campaign to minimize any opportunity for Mr. Gingrich to open his mouth in a debate format on national television.
There is a slight caveat to this though: If Romney wins SC, this strategy works. If he doesn’t he has to debate in Florida, because he has to win back his front runner status. “Newtmentum” is dying out, and I doubt it will continue. Newt isn’t a powerhouse candidate. He’s a powerhouse debater. If Romney must debate, expect him to name drop Santorum and Paul a lot, pushing time away from the Speaker to minimize his debate prowess as much as possible.
Newt can’t win in the long term. He’s too dependent on the debate.