Watching the Republican debate last night it really struck me forcefully.

Newt Gingrich is for real.

I fully expect him to win the Republican nomination.

Watching him in close combat with Romney I was reminded of the tortoise and the hare.

Romney had bolted to the front of the pack early but has never put his rivals away.

One by one they had their day in the sun coming close to him but eventually falling away.

Until Newt, the ultimate tortoise who was once so far behind that Romney could hardly glimpse him in the rear view mirror.

But there he was last night, big and bold, aiming deadly zingers at an increasingly flustered Romney who looks more and more like an Elmer Fudd.

Gingrich's line that Romney would have been a professional pol too if he had defeated Ted Kennedy in 1994 was the best line of the night

Romney's problem is that very few Republicans love him -- they tolerate him.

Newt on the other hand has a love/hate relationship going with most everyone.

He is fire to Romney's and indeed Obama's ice-- and he is all the better for that.

Sure there are times he puts his foot in it-- calling the Palestinians an invented people was too much even for the Israeli government.

But Republicans are beginning to sense that, for the knock down drag out fight they need to wage against Obama, Newt is much better placed to take the battle to him.

Like the hedgehog and the fox fable Gingrich is the hedgehog ---he knows one big thing, how to take the fight to Democrats as he did when he became House Speaker ending decades of Democratic rule.

Romney like the fox knows lots of other things but does not give off the impression that he is a true street fighter.

And that is undoubtedly true.