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With Union Leader endorsement, can Newt Gingrich catch Mitt Romney?

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(AP Photo/Erik Kellar)

(Read caption) Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich signs a copy of his book 'A Nation Like No Other' in Naples, Fla., Nov. 26, 2011.

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The building blocks for Newt Gingrich to win the 2012 GOP nomination are starting fall in place.

It's still a long shot. But Gingrich is gaining credibility by the day.

In New Hampshire, the coveted endorsement Sunday by the state's conservative newspaper offers a significant boost to Gingrich – and a blow to Mitt Romney. This is the second time the Union Leader has pointedly passed on Romney. In 2008, Sen. John McCain got the Union Leader nod, and eventually won the Republican presidential nomination. 

Mitt Romney still has a substantial lead over Gingrich in New Hampshire polls. But so did George W. Bush and Barack Obama – and both lost the New Hampshire primary.

Romney's nightmare scenario, as the London Telegraph US editor Toby Harnden notes, is that a Gingrich win in Iowa leads to a first or second place finish in New Hampshire. Romney is counting on New Hampshire, but if Gingrich can show he's a serious contender then the battle goes to South Carolina, where a "true" social conservative, such as Gingrich, has an edge. Then comes the pivotal Florida primary.

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