I’ve been focusing on Newt’s rise since the debates in early September, when he distinguished himself as the statesman on stage and the guy focused on the ultimate prize, defeating Obama.  While Perry and Romney squabbled, and Santorum and Bachmann tried to score points attacking Perry and Romney, Newt impressed with his knowledge and willingness not to play the moderators’ games.

Newt steadily has moved up in the polls, and now is in the top tier and moving towards the top.  To the extent Cain falters, I predict that almost all of that support will move to Newt.

Equally important, Newt is closing the gap on Obama in national polling:

Three weeks ago, Rasmussen’s poll of likely voters showed Speaker Newt Gingrich trailing President Barack Obama by a whopping 27 percentage points (51 to 24 percent) among independent voters. Now, Rasmussen shows, Obama’s lead over Gingrich has shrunk to just 6 points (41 to 35 percent) among independents. Obama also leads Gingrich by 6 points (44 to 38 percent) among all likely voters.

Newt now represents the most credible threat to Romney, so it is not surprising that Romney’s biggest supporter in the blogosphere, Jennifer Rubin, trotted out decades old charges against Newt when the Cain accusations first surfaced:

If the GOP presidential race did not already resemble a farce, we were reminded yesterday that Herman Cain is far from the only unintentional hilarious figure. Newt Gingrich, he of multiple marriages and an armful of ethics scandals, pronounced in defense of Cain: “He’s out there trying to help a country that’s in desperate trouble, and he has gotten more coverage over the last few days over gossip.” Free advice for Cain: Don’t call Gingrich as a character witness….

Dumping Cain for Gingrich would certainly be the proverbial leap from the frying pan to the fire. In a real sense, the candidate who most resembles Cain’s tone deafness, self-absorption, lack of organizational skills and hostility to criticism is Gingrich.

And again today:

It would be ironic if Gingrich, of multiple marriages and ethics violations as speaker of the House, were to benefit from Cain’s self-destruction.

It will not work.  Gingrich has done for his past indiscretions what Romney refuses to do for Romneycare:  Apologize.

People will forgive those who make mistakes, own up to them, and move on to better things.  Romney supporters will have to do better than tearing down other Republicans to unstick Romney from his 25%.