My November 19th blog on Republican Booms and Busts used the admittedly small sample size of the average timeline of other Republican candidates' rise and fall as alternatives to Romney to predict that the latest anti-Romney, Newt Gingrich, would hit a polling peak on December 2nd, and begin a plunge on December 23rd. So how's it looking?
Actually not too bad for the first part. On December 1st, Gingrich reached his all-time peak (so far) of 26.6% on the Real Clear Politics polling average, and has remained at that level since then:
Might this be the peak? One good reason to think it could is that polling slowed down so much around Thanksgiving that there is only one national poll covering the period after 11/20, a Rasmussen Reports poll that had Gingrich at 38% and Romney at 17%. Since this is only a single poll, and Rasmussen polls historically tend to skew more conservative, the chances of it being an outlier are fairly high, and new polls that show Gingrich still ahead, but by less than 21%, would tend to back him off a little from the high this poll contributed to.
On the other hand, today's piece of breaking news is that Herman Cain is suspending his campaign following the damage wrought this week by a woman who claims to be having an affair with him. While he denies it, he does admit to paying her bills and she has phone records that show months of contact between them. Prior to this, he had stabilized at around 15% despite the swarm of earlier allegations of woman trouble, and could probably have hung in around there until the voting started.
Now his votes will be looking for somewhere new to go, and all indications are that Gingrich and Perry are more likely to get them than Romney, which push Newt even higher and keep him near the top long enough to actually still be in the lead when voting starts one month from today.
There are still plenty of good reasons to think that Romney will eventually be the nominee. Look at this Washington Post article, for example, to see the advantages his lead in money and organization give him in building a machine that will accumulate delegates throughout the process. But it's looking increasingly like Newt might just hang in there long enough to at least make it interesting.