Gingrich losing momentum in Republican Primary in January.

Stacked area chart shows a dwindling number of quotes about Gingrich as a % of the whole after January 25th.

Newt Gingrich today announced he is reducing staff though he plans to continue to campaign until the Republican convention in August, unless Romney or Santorum reaches the delegate count required for nomination. If he gets to the convention without either Romney or Santorum locking up the nomination, he will approach the convention with a big choice strategy. “Newt 2012 is transitioning into an organization appropriate for winning a big choice convention,” according to Joe DeSantis, the Gingrich campaign communications director.

Gingrich posed the rhetorical question, “Who can best beat Barack Obama? I think most Republicans would probably agree that I would probably do a better job debating Obama than any other candidate, and I think it becomes a very viable, very lively campaign.”

For almost two months, Gingrich has been on a mostly downward trajectory (ceding momentum to Santorum) in the polls, in the voting booths and in the media share as reflected in our Fourth Estate data (see the chart to the left). An implicit message in DeSantis’ email to Politico is that Gingrich will be focusing on issues and substance over style.

Issues have not been prominent in Republican Primary 2012

Stacked area chart of percentages of content dedicated to topics within the Republican Primary 2012 debate.

As might be pleasing to Nate Silver who is seemingly promoting a more liberal use of the Etch-a Sketch as a candidate weapon, one of the dirty little secrets of this Republican primary has been the complete lack of discussion of issues. This lack of discussion of issues has occurred across TV, radio and print (the supposed last bastion of decency in civil discourse). The focus of the Republican primary on the Campaign itself to the exclusion of other issues can be seen in the chart to the right. There have been a small ongoing discussion of the Economy (green) and some surges in discussion of Social Issues (red) and Energy (blue) most recently, but for the most part the percentage of reflexive discussion about the Campaign itself has hovered around the 80-85% range. It will be interesting to see if Gingrich, operating at lower capacity and in the role of keeping everyone honest in terms of the discussion of real issues of real importance to American voters can move the needle toward more substantive issues as reflected in our Fourth Estate data.