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Gingrich gains ground in GOP polls ahead of meeting with Trump

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gingrich Photo Credit: Newt Gingrich speaks at a town hall meeting on Dec. 3 in Staten Island./Getty Images

On a mission to woo Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich will descend on Manhattan on Monday in an enviable position -- the clear leader of the GOP presidential pack.

Gingrich, who will be meeting with the "Celebrity Apprentice" star and off-and-on presidential wannabe, has vaulted to the top of the Republican presidential field after his rivals' spectacular stumbles.

And that means the GOP is getting ready to party like it's 1994, when Gingrich became a household name after he helped engineer the Republican congressional uprising.

He's become the front-runner in next month's Iowa caucuses and is poised to snag the endorsement of the disgraced former candidate Herman Cain.

"I think a lot of people inside the Beltway and outside the Beltway woke up today to a very different political environment, and one in which Newt Gingrich is very much for real," Robert Gibbs, the former press secretary under President Barack Obama, said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Gingrich, 68, served as speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999, but his congressional chops may alienate some GOP voters, like Tea Party enthusiasts dubious of longtime Washington insiders, political observers said.

"Newt has so much baggage -- he's been around since he was first elected to the House in 1978," said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "The Republican base is sort of running out of candidates to try out and reject, so we'll see if Gingrich can stand the heat."

Already, some prominent Republicans have voiced their discontent with a possible Gingrich presidency, regardless of his latest bounce.

"I'm not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich's ... I just found ... his leadership lacking," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said on "Fox News Sunday."

Other candidates who made splashy entrances for the 2012 race, like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, have suffered from their own debate and campaign-trail gaffes.

Cain suspended his race Saturday amid questions about an alleged extramarital affair and a series of sexual-harassment allegations.

An unnamed Cain adviser told Politico on Sunday that the Georgia businessman would likely endorse Gingrich, who will take part in a Dec. 27 Republican debate to be moderated by Trump.

Jamie Chandler, political science professor at Hunter College, said Gingrich and former front-runner Mitt Romney have the debating skills to challenge Obama.

"Gingrich has had a propensity for inflammatory comments, but I think he'll appeal to Iowa Republican voters," Chandler said. "The question will be when we get into these state primaries, can he capture the more moderate Republican voters?"

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Top of the Polls

Ahead of next month’s Iowa caucuses, two polls released over the weekend put Newt Gingrich in the lead.

The Des Moines Register

Newt Gingrich 25%
Ron Paul 18%
Mitt Romney 16%
Michele Bachmann/Herman Cain* 8%

NBC/Marist

Newt Gingrich 26%
Mitt Romney 18%
Ron Paul 17%
Rick Perry/Herman Cain* 9%

*Cain suspended his campaign on Saturday.

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