We can always count on the mainstream media to ask the tough questions, like: "What's behind Gingrich's jump in the polls?"

Read the paragraphs of pseudo-analysis offered by a laundry list of hangers-on and campaign hacks if you want, or stick around here while we wallow in the bleedingly obvious. Gingrich is "on the rise" (based on a single poll) because the desperate search for anyone who is not Mitt Romney continues among the GOP inner circle and voting base. With Iowa six weeks away, the odds of a new Savior joining the field are essentially nil. The Bachmann carnival freakshow had its 15 minutes over the summer. Perry rode over the hill on a white stallion and leaves as a laughingstock. Things got so desperate that, at least for a short while, the GOP appeared to consider the black guy.

What alternatives remain? It's basically down to Gingrich, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, or Rick Santorum. Gingrich is basically a bridge troll with name recognition. Paul is way too far out there for the GOP insiders and has less charisma and fewer camera skills than any politician since Barry Goldwater. Huntsman is an apostate. It's continually surprising to be reminded that Santorum is still in the race. It makes all the sense in the world that Republicans being polled would choose the one name they know as something other than an abject failure (which, coincidentally enough, Gingrich is in every sense of the word) from the list if they're desperate to avoid Mittens.

Of course, the fact that Romney's eventual nomination seems all but inevitable is bad news for the networks, who very much want the appearance of a nail biter of a race. Let's face it: somebody needs to be the Romney alternative, and Gingrich stands as good of a chance as any of going the next six weeks without dousing himself with gasoline and lighting a match. Then again, that turned out to be too much to ask of Bachmann, Perry, and Cain.

So while Gingrich's "surge" seems like the kind of thing that would have a shelf life measured in hours, the reality is that he is probably going to stick around for lack of a viable alternative Romney alternative.