Newtmentum? The GOP race just gets wackier.

No sensible observers probably thought it could happen. He’s easily the least charismatic and likable Republican politician running in the GOP primary, but it looks like Newt Gingrich has suddenly risen within striking distance of the current front runner, Herman Cain, and is tied with Mitt Romney, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

The only thing more surprising would be if John Huntsman, who some snarks insist is simply too sensible, knowledgeable, and, of course, too moderate to prevail with the current crop of Republican core voters, took the lead. That seems next to impossible — but despite his favor with some conservative intellectuals — few observers thought for an instant that Gingrich could ever rise from his position in the 2-3% support range to become a serious contender.

Of course, Newt’s fortunes have risen primarily because the previous three front runners’ fortunes have fallen.

Briefly the frontrunner, himself, slow-thinking Texas governor Rick Perry’s stumbling campaign has now fallen in the hole of his inability to think on his feet — and the viral videos of a speech where most observers have agreed that, despite his denials, he looked goofily drunk and, of course, his instantly infamous oops moment in Wednesday’s GOP debate, when he forgot a key bullet point in his personal remake government agenda — stumbling repeatedly for over 50 seconds as he repeatedly attempted — and failed — to remember one of the three federal agencies he maintains he would close if elected president.

Perry’s drain-circling comes as front runner Herman Cain’s ongoing — and apparently still-expanding — sex harassment controversy shows no sign of abating; we are now up to 5 accusers who have alleged unwanted advances — including claims of a crude physical groping incident. Even as Cain’s core supporters have circled the wagons — and supporters in the media like Rush Limbaugh have mounted an aggressive — some would say  embarrassingly vulgar and aggressive — campaign against the alleged victims of Cain’s harassment, the ongoing controversy appears to be eroding Cain’s support among moderate Republicans and, of course, Republican women, who, while not exactly ‘holding up half the tent’ in today’s GOP, will nonetheless be crucial to any Republican candidate’s chances in the general election.

And Mitt Romney, once considered a veritable shoo-in, is currently tied with Gingrich at 15% support within the party, with Cain still clinging to a 3 point lead at 18%.

Interesting times.

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