Newt Gingrich in the media crosshairs

Newt Gingrich's rise in the polls is followed by the inevitable closer look at his record. Can Newt Gingrich survive the scrutiny?

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a CNN Republican presidential debate in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011.

Newt Gingrich, welcome to the top of the pack.

After Herman Cain’s rapid ascent, journalists everywhere turned their poison pens to the new GOP frontrunner. We detailed Cain’s trip through the press wringer here.

Now, it’s Gingrich’s turn.

That first quote is from this POLITICO piece where other brainy conservatives take the former Speaker’s intellectual bona fides down a peg.

Then, you might consider a look at these two pieces, one from iWatch News and one from POLITICO, that delve into Gingrich’s work as a lobbyist advocate in his think tank and two for-profit groups which raked in $100 million in revenue over the last decade.

While Gingrich has vowed he was never a lobbyist, one conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute - where Gingrich once held a post - notes that “if I were to write a Wikipedia definition of lobbying it might not be all that different from their description” while adding that Gingrich’s enterprises “may have avoided lobbying members face to face.”

That’s in addition to Bloomberg’s widely-reported findings of Gingrich’s work for favored conservative punching bag (and government-sponsored mortgage behemoth) Freddie Mac, which netted him $1.6 million over several years.

And that’s all before he raised a decidedly non-GOP mainstream opinion (at least among the other candidates) about immigration in last night’s GOP debate. Fox News called the following “Newt’s Big Risk”:

“I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century — who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago — separate them from their families, and expel them. … I don’t see how the — the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying: Let’s be humane in enforcing the law — without giving them citizenship, but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.”

Keep your eyes peeled for long-form stories about Gingrich’s background over the next several weeks. It will be key to determining whether the candidate can hold up while his record comes under intense scrutiny.

What’s the value of such scrutiny? Isn’t this just digging up old skeletons? Isn’t the future more important? In some sense, yes. But as Mitt Romney is dogged with every day, voters are often as concerned - and rightly so - with what candidates have done in their past, not what they say they’ll do in the future.

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