The current republican rock star is a familiar face, Newt Gingrich. In the spring, his campaign appeared dead, as virtually the entire staff quit over concerns that Newt wasn't serious and that his wife had inordinate control. How things change. The weekly debates and cable channels have unwittingly provided a form of public financing for candidates. Long shots can get on the stage and make their points just like the big boys. In the case of Ron Paul, they had better talk fast, because the media have caught on and are trying to censor candidates they do not consider mainstream. No one has exploited this opportunity better than Newt. He was raising very little money, but as long as he could get his turns at the debates, he had a chance. His impressive mastery of the issues made a stark contrast to some of the newcomers, eg Perry and Cain. He displayed the ability to put things in historical perspective without sounding like an old guy reminiscing for the good ole days. Finally, he hit a home run when he got into a nasty verbal exchange with CNBC megastar, Maria Bartoromo. It was a high risk move for Newt, who had scored with conservatives by attacking the media in previous debates. Maria is not an overtly liberal reporter, like say Dan Rather, and is respected by many republicans as a savvy financial journalist. Also, as a woman, she represented a particularly dangerous target for someone woth enormous bagge where women voters are concerned. Still Newt attacked, then backed it up with a dazzling recitation of a 30 year involvement with health care issues. He both demonstrated the absurdity of trying to cover such a complex issue in 30 seconds and displayed his depth of knowledge. Perry's inability to recall even the name of a major cabinet department provided an unintentional contrast to Gingrichs mastery of the issues. Gingrich offers two things to primary voters. One, he is an authentic conservative. Two, he can hold his own with Obama or anyone else in a debate. He has been doing it on TV and in congress for 30 years. Romney raises doubts on the former, Cain and Perry on the latter. The other candidates seem to lack presidential gravitas. So does Newt become the default choice? He has baggage, both personal and public. He divorced one wife, as the urban legend goes while she was on her death bed from cancer. He carried on an affair on wife two, even as he attacked Clinton for his indiscretions. The media have not really harped on any of this yet. Get ready. It's coming. More troubling, after an initial success with the Contract With America, he was routinely outplayed by his great antagonist, Bill Clinton. He made an infamous ad with Nancy Pelosi pushing global warming hysteria. In an era when outsiders are revered, he is the ultimate inside the Beltway player. He seems to have a big problem with women voters. They instinctively do not like him. Look at Maria Bartoromo's reaction. She immediately became hostile. With Obama or Clinton, she probably would have laughed it off or commiserated with them about the difficulty of answering. For better or worse, he seems to be the last man standing as an alternative to Romney. At least this week.