Perhaps this illustrates the obvious, but I think this graph is an interesting way to look at one of Newt Gingrich's advantages (Newt in blue):
Google Ngram Viewer doesn't go beyond 2008, but that might be just as well. Scanning the massive database at Google books for use of the Republican presidential candidates' names in this time frame, we get an indication of the relative size of the candidates' footprints at the starting line, before any of them began running for president officially.
For comparison, I included John McCain below (note... Gingrich changed to red):
For greater perspective, I made a graph with Gingrich, Romney, McCain, Clinton and Reagan (Reagan in red in this one; time frame goes back to 1970):
It's fascinating to note that Bill Clinton never really eclipsed Ronald Reagan, even while Clinton was still in office and Reagan had been out of office for a decade.
It's also interesting to note Reagan's curve prior to 1980 vs Clinton's prior to 1992 and Newt's prior to 2008.
Update: I almost forgot to include a graph with Barry O (Newt in Green):
Of course we shouldn't try to read to much into all this (Google's Ngram Viewer is not without certain limitations), but the graphs provoke thought nonetheless.
Update II: Intro to Google Ngram Viewer...
Update III: Selected words and phrases...
- Republic (vs republic)
- Happy Holidays
- Flower Power
- Make love not war
- Compassionate Conservative
- The Gipper
- Kinder, gentler
- gay marriage
- civil union vs gay marriage
- homosexual marriage
- hole in the ozone
- ozone layer vs landfill
- climate change vs global warming
- illegal aliens vs illegal immigrants vs undocumented immigrants
- nuclear war