Chris Matthews: Newt Gingrich's Popularity Due to Time on Fox News

Chris Matthews has a theory as to why Newt Gingrich is suddenly soaring in the Republican presidential polls.

As he discussed with his panelists on the syndicated program bearing his name this weekend, it's all because of the former House Speaker's time as a contributor to Fox News (video follows with transcript and commentary):

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Welcome back. Earlier this week my MSNBC colleague Joe Scarborough had a fascinating view of why Newt Gingrich is a hit with Republican voters.


JOE SCARBOROUGH: He's been on Fox News, as Mark said, for such a long time, and Fox News drives primary voters, Republican primary voters, because they all watch it.


MATTHEWS: Simply put. As a matter of fact, this week's New York Times/CBS poll has 37 percent of likely Iowa caucus-goers saying they get most of their news from Fox. What they've seen is, well, hundreds of hits like this.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich says President Obama is making the biggest power grab in American history.

NEWT GINGRICH: But what you're seeing is a rush to try to radically change America before the American people have a say in it.


MATTHEWS: Well there you have it, Kelly. Coming off as a bit of an oracle, a thoughtful man. He doesn't have to fight with anybody in particular, just speak his intellectual firepower there.

KELLY O’DONNELL, NBC NEWS: And he's had this great forum for a long time where he can work out some of these ideas. There's a comfortability with those voters who are not necessarily thinking of all of those data points in his career that didn't go so well. They've had a chance to, in a much more intimate way, spend time with him. When Romney has not been in that same forum. Just recently the other day he said, “You'll see me more on Fox News” because that's important to Republican primary voters.

MATTHEWS: Okay, hard-working guys and women come home in Iowa and places like that after they go to work, they don't watch entertainment shows, "American Idol," they watch the hard-nosed, right-wing stuff. Newt’s on as one of their advisors. That’s pretty intimate.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN: Right, and Newt didn't disappear. Let me recall one other person from history that was sort of interesting in his relationship with television and that's Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan, a salesman for General Electric, who then took his story on the road politically. They already knew him from television. They liked him. He had been in their living room. Forget the movie stuff. He had been in their living room and then could take his politics on the road.

MATTHEWS: And then became a commentator and columnist all those years after he lost in ’76.

BORGER: Exactly.

Readers first have to giggle about Matthews getting this idea from the supposedly conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. When liberal MSNBC commentators are starting to cite you, it doesn't help your right-wing bona fides.

That said, isn't it interesting that neither Matthews nor his guests realized the obvious flaw in this theory: Gingrich hasn't been a Fox News contributor since May when the network dropped him and Rick Santorum due to their respective candidacies.

The frontrunners since that point have been Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and until quite recently, Herman Cain.

Until just a few weeks ago, Gingrich was in single digits in most polls. If his popularity were due to his contributions to Fox News, wouldn't the polls have reflected it months ago?

Oddly, nobody on the panel noticed this obvious glitch.

As hard as it might be for liberal journalists to understand this, Gingrich's rise in popularity the past four weeks has been a function of all the anything but Romney candidates falling by the wayside for a variety of reasons.

But more importantly, he has been performing extremely well in debate after debate, a point that the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell and I made back in August.

Might the many appearances on Fox News have helped Gingrich's surge?

Sure, but it's likely minor by comparison to the steady-handed competence and command of the subject matter he's been exhibiting in these debates.

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