Mitt Romney's campaign strategists were right about Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain—none have proven to be a long-term threat. But, the Washington Post notes, they weren't ready for Newt Gingrich. As polls show that the primary is increasingly becoming a two-man race, Romney is struggling to deal with Gingrich's rise—a particularly daunting rise because, unlike many of the others, Gingrich has passion, political experience, and substantive policy ideas. Romney could continue to focus on the general election, but strategists worry that Gingrich, unlike the others, won't decline on his own. On the other hand, a direct attack on Gingrich could backfire.
Romney wasn't as cool as usual in a recent Fox News interview, appearing agitated as he was questioned about flip-flopping, and taking a rare swipe at Gingrich, hinting that he does consider his rival a credible threat. He criticized him again on Sean Hannity's radio show, calling Gingrich a "career politician" while touting his own business experience, the Wall Street Journal notes. Also hurting Romney is Gingrich's ability to draw more enthusiastic support, as evidenced by the energetic crowds at his campaign events compared to Romney's comparatively sedate gatherings. A recent Gallup poll shows Gingrich has a 20% lead over Romney's 9% when it comes to "positive intensity" among voters. Click for a recent swipe Gingrich took at Romney.