"Substance" is too cold a word, perhaps, for the intense feeling that candidate Gingrich delivers so coolly in debates. Too cold too, no doubt, to describe the reactions of his listeners, visible on the faces of the crowds attending these forums—in their expressions, caught on C-SPAN's cameras, in the speed with which their desultory politeness disappears once a Gingrich talk begins. Their disengagement—the tendency to look around the room, chat with their neighbors—vanishes. The room is on high alert.
The former speaker of the House is a dab hand at drawing listeners in, for good reason—he showers them with details, facts and history in a degree no candidate in recent memory has even approached. Audiences have a way of rewarding such trust.
No one listening that night to candidate Gingrich's reflections on the menace of radical judges from Lincoln's time on down could have ignored the power of his fiery assessment—including the Dred Scott decision, others by courts today that threaten our national security, and much in between.
His greatest asset lies in his capacity to speak to Americans as he has done, with such potency, during the Republican debates. No candidate in the field comes close to his talent for connection. There's no underestimating the importance of such a power in the presidential election ahead, or any other one.
His rise in the polls suggests that more and more Republicans are absorbing that fact, along with the possibility that Mr. Gingrich's qualifications all 'round could well make him the most formidable contender for the contest with Barack Obama.