Can Newt make a comeback?

He's already done it twice, but can Gingrich come back a third time?

Newt Gingrich may be down, but he's not out yet. Although he trailed in Nevada by 25 per cent of the vote -- making it his second consecutive big loss -- don't write the moral conservative off yet.

Gingrich is hanging on for Super Tuesday on 6 March where 10 states vote at once and almost a fifth of all delegates are decided. The Bible belt is better territory for the Republican candidate and many conservative Southern states like Georgia and Alabama are likely to vote in his favour; the former being his onetime home state with 76 delegates on offer. There are 437 delegates up for grabs in total on Super Tuesday -- a marked contrast to Nevada's 28 and Florida's 50.

In order to hold on until Super Tuesday, Gingrich needs to work on attacking Mitt Romney, capitalising on the reservations many Southern Republicans have about him and his centrist record as governor of Massachusetts. In the Florida primary Newt's strongest region was the Florida Panhandle, which can be seen as a proxy for the Deep South. Moreover, he was also more popular with poorer voters, born-again Christians and evangelical voters -- important factors to remember when predicting how the Bible belt of America will vote. At a press conference in Nevada, Gingrich himself predicted that the conservative Southern states would never vote for a pro-gun control, pro-abortion Massachusetts moderate.

While Gingrich, who was outspent by Romney 5:1 in Florida, may have complained about Ron Paul and Rick Santorum remaining in the race and making it more difficult for him to consolidate the anti-Mitt vote, he may be thanking them in the run up to Super Tuesday. It is possible that both Santorum and Paul could win in caucus states that Romney has more sway in than Gingrich. Santorum is in good stead in Missouri and Minnesota, while Paul holds weight in Colorado.

Wins from Paul or Santorum would undoubtedly weaken Romney's position, thus enabling Newt to swoop in once again and paint himself as the only man who can boot Obama from the White House and ensure that Romney cannot paint his clinching of the Republican nomination as inevitable.

Importantly, Romney's victory in Nevada isn't the storming success he has made it out to be. Romney captured Nevada, which has a large proportion of Mormons, with around 43 per cent of the vote; much lower than the 51 per cent he received in his 2008 campaign. This may be due to his recent comments about not being concerned with the very poor -- a statement that has since been taken wildly out of context but one that Newt can surely use to sully his opponent.

There's no doubt that Newt will face an uphill battle up until Super Tuesday, particularly due to the fact that there are no debates scheduled until 22 February. The former Speaker has shone in the debates, using them as an opportunity to incite grassroots support and, importantly, attack frontrunner Mitt Romney. Many undecided voters warmed to Newt in the debates, especially his infamous rage at CNN's John King in South Carolina, seeing his aggression as the quality that would enable him to triumph over President Obama.

The more Newt can paint Romney as one of "them" as opposed to one of "us" due to his Mormonism and extraordinary wealth, the more chance he has of ensuring that the Republican nomination continues to be a race rather than a coronation. His means of doing this is through debate and it is not unlikely that he will request another with Romney before 22 February. The former House Speaker knows that he cannot lie low for a month and expect miracle success, and with the recent cartoonish blow of Donald Trump endorsing Romney, Gingrich needs to ensure that he remains in primetime news.

Similarly, in the run up to Super Tuesday Newt should outline more concrete policies on tax and national debt, rather than merely saying his conservative policies are strong and courageous as opposed to moderate Mitt's timid proposals. If he can do this he has a good chance of re-engaging the conservative base and proving himself as the only alternative to Romney and his cautious policies, which are unpopular with the Tea Party. Newt needs to talk less about the moon and develop a laser-focussed message targeted at the political and social right.

The former Speaker has vowed not to surrender until the Tampa convention and until then he must keep doing what he does best: fighting. There's no question that his comeback will be hard, but it's not impossible.

Don't count the underdog out just yet.

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Who will win in Copeland? The Labour heartland hangs in the balance

The knife-edge by-election could end 82 years of Labour rule on the West Cumbrian coast.

Fine, relentless drizzle shrouds Whitehaven, a harbour town exposed on the outer edge of Copeland, West Cumbria. It is the most populous part of the coastal north-western constituency, which takes in everything from this old fishing port to Sellafield nuclear power station to England’s tallest mountain Scafell Pike. Sprawling and remote, it protrudes from the heart of the Lake District out into the Irish Sea.

Billy, a 72-year-old Whitehaven resident, is out for a morning walk along the marina with two friends, his woolly-hatted head held high against the whipping rain. He worked down the pit at the Haig Colliery for 27 years until it closed, and now works at Sellafield on contract, where he’s been since the age of 42.

“Whatever happens, a change has got to happen,” he says, hands stuffed into the pockets of his thick fleece. “If I do vote, the Bootle lass talks well for the Tories. They’re the favourites. If me mam heard me saying this now, she’d have battered us!” he laughs. “We were a big Labour family. But their vote has gone. Jeremy Corbyn – what is he?”

The Conservatives have their sights on traditional Labour voters like Billy, who have been returning Labour MPs for 82 years, to make the first government gain in a by-election since 1982.

Copeland has become increasingly marginal, held with just 2,564 votes by former frontbencher Jamie Reed, who resigned from Parliament last December to take a job at the nuclear plant. He triggered a by-election now regarded by all sides as too close to call. “I wouldn’t put a penny on it,” is how one local activist sums up the mood.

There are 10,000 people employed at the Sellafield site, and 21,000 jobs are promised for nearby Moorside – a project to build Europe’s largest nuclear power station now thrown into doubt, with Japanese company Toshiba likely to pull out.

Tories believe Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on nuclear power (he limply conceded it could be part of the “energy mix” recently, but his long prevarication betrayed his scepticism) and opposition to Trident, which is hosted in the neighbouring constituency of Barrow-in-Furness, could put off local employees who usually stick to Labour.

But it’s not that simple. The constituency may rely on nuclear for jobs, but I found a notable lack of affection for the industry. While most see the employment benefits, there is less enthusiasm for Sellafield being part of their home’s identity – particularly in Whitehaven, which houses the majority of employees in the constituency. Also, unions representing Sellafield workers have been in a dispute for months with ministers over pension cut plans.

“I worked at Sellafield for 30 years, and I’m against it,” growls Fred, Billy’s friend, a retiree of the same age who also used to work at the colliery. “Can you see nuclear power as safer than coal?” he asks, wild wiry eyebrows raised. “I’m a pit man; there was just nowhere else to work [when the colliery closed]. The pension scheme used to be second-to-none, now they’re trying to cut it, changing the terms.”

Derek Bone, a 51-year-old who has been a storeman at the plant for 15 years, is equally unconvinced. I meet him walking his dog along the seafront. “This county, Cumbria, Copeland, has always been a nuclear area – whether we like it or don’t,” he says, over the impatient barks of his Yorkshire terrier Milo. “But people say it’s only to do with Copeland. It ain’t. It employs a lot of people in the UK, outside the county – then they’re spending the money back where they’re from, not here.”

Such views might be just enough of a buffer against the damage caused by Corbyn’s nuclear reluctance. But the problem for Labour is that neither Fred nor Derek are particularly bothered about the result. While awareness of the by-election is high, many tell me that they won’t be voting this time. “Jeremy Corbyn says he’s against it [nuclear], now he’s not, and he could change his mind – I don’t believe any of them,” says Malcolm Campbell, a 55-year-old lorry driver who is part of the nuclear supply chain.

Also worrying for Labour is the deprivation in Copeland. Everyone I speak to complains about poor infrastructure, shoddy roads, derelict buildings, and lack of investment. This could punish the party that has been in power locally for so long.

The Tory candidate Trudy Harrison, who grew up in the coastal village of Seascale and now lives in Bootle, at the southern end of the constituency, claims local Labour rule has been ineffective. “We’re isolated, we’re remote, we’ve been forgotten and ignored by Labour for far too long,” she says.

I meet her in the town of Millom, at the southern tip of the constituency – the opposite end to Whitehaven. It centres on a small market square dominated by a smart 19th-century town hall with a mint-green domed clock tower. This is good Tory door-knocking territory; Millom has a Conservative-led town council.

While Harrison’s Labour opponents are relying on their legacy vote to turn out, Harrison is hoping that the same people think it’s time for a change, and can be combined with the existing Tory vote in places like Millom. “After 82 years of Labour rule, this is a huge ask,” she admits.

Another challenge for Harrison is the threat to services at Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital. It has been proposed for a downgrade, which would mean those seeking urgent care – including children, stroke sufferers, and those in need of major trauma treatment and maternity care beyond midwifery – would have to travel the 40-mile journey to Carlisle on the notoriously bad A595 road.

Labour is blaming this on Conservative cuts to health spending, and indeed, Theresa May dodged calls to rescue the hospital in her campaign visit last week. “The Lady’s Not For Talking,” was one local paper front page. It also helps that Labour’s candidate, Gillian Troughton, is a St John Ambulance driver, who has driven the dangerous journey on a blue light.

“Seeing the health service having services taken away in the name of centralisation and saving money is just heart-breaking,” she tells me. “People are genuinely frightened . . . If we have a Tory MP, that essentially gives them the green light to say ‘this is OK’.”

But Harrison believes she would be best-placed to reverse the hospital downgrade. “[I] will have the ear of government,” she insists. “I stand the very best chance of making sure we save those essential services.”

Voters are concerned about the hospital, but divided on the idea that a Tory MP would have more power to save it.

“What the Conservatives are doing with the hospitals is disgusting,” a 44-year-old carer from Copeland’s second most-populated town of Egremont tells me. Her partner, Shaun Grant, who works as a labourer, agrees. “You have to travel to Carlisle – it could take one hour 40 minutes; the road is unpredictable.” They will both vote Labour.

Ken, a Conservative voter, counters: “People will lose their lives over it – we need someone in the circle, who can influence the government, to change it. I think the government would reward us for voting Tory.”

Fog engulfs the jagged coastline and rolling hills of Copeland as the sun begins to set on Sunday evening. But for most voters and campaigners here, the dense grey horizon is far clearer than what the result will be after going to the polls on Thursday.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.