Ross Douthat hits the nail on the head in the NYT:
Newt Gingrich’s recent rise in the polls is being sustained, in part, by a right-wing version of exactly the impulse that led Democrats to nominate Kerry: a desperate desire to somehow beat Barack Obama at his own game, and to explode what conservatives consider the great fantasy of the 2008 campaign — the conceit that Obama possessed an unmatched brilliance and an unprecedented eloquence.
He’s on to something.
When Gingrich stakes out a position in the debates, he provides the historical context and intellectual reasoning to defend that position. After ten years of ideological drift from the party’s leaders and an unwillingness among GOP candidates (and consultants) to make the case for conservatism – either based on political calculation or a fear of being chastised by the mainstream media – Republican voters are energized by the prospect of a strong defense of conservatism on the national stage.
But read the whole thing. Douthat believes that conservatives are making a mistake. His column is a warning.