The Republican party has a very big problem on its hands, in the person of one Newton Leroy Gingrich. With his win in South Carolina, he has an actual shot at becoming their nominee for president, which, as the clear-headed among them know, would be a disaster. Just look at these poll results. Over the last six weeks or so as the spotlight turned on the presidential race, Gingrich's unfavorable ratings have shot up, presumably because Americans are being reminded of why they disliked him so much back in the 1990s. He's now viewed unfavorably by an average of 58.6 percent of the public, and favorably by only 26.5 percent.
Although Newt Gingrich has dominated the headlines since Saturday night, what happened in the South Carolina primary is less about Gingrich’s rise than it is about Mitt Romney’s fall. The right's determination to find anyone other than Romney—illustrated over the last eight months by the hot flashes of support for Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain—has become desperate to the point that evangelicals supported a twice-divorced man who, by the account of one of his discarded spouses, aspired to manage a small harem. Moreover, they’re so frantic to be rid of Romney that they implicitly sanctioned Gingrich’s attacks against the former Massachusetts governor's personal financial gain.
The day before his decisive victory in the South Carolina primary, Newt Gingrich held a rally in Mount Pleasant on the USS Yorktown, a retired World War II-era aircraft carrier that has been turned into a museum of naval history. It was a huge event. Hundreds of people filed onto the ship to hear Newt “give 'em hell”—with “'em” being a combination of Democrats, the “liberal media,” and the Republican establishment.
In one of the most startling turnarounds in presidential-primary history, Newt Gingrich scored a double-digit victory in South Carolina over Mitt Romney on Saturday.
When the week began, Romney was coming off an easy win in New Hampshire and had a comfortable-looking lead in every state poll. Every political forecaster in America saw him as the inevitable Republican nominee. But his worst debate performance of the campaign on Monday night was followed by a week of fumbles that gave the lie to his campaign’s legendary “discipline.” Romney, cast as a “vulture capitalist” and out-of-touch one-percenter—in a state with high unemployment—could not even muster a clear answer to questions about releasing his tax returns.
NORTH CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA—Mitt Romney’s events are usually calm, which is why it was a surprise to hear yelling and see police drag two people, apparently Occupy protesters, out of the crowd. “She’s being choked! She’s being choked!” yelled one of the protesters, and I—along with several other reporters—rushed to see what the commotion was about. After dragging them onto a parking lot, the police went back, leaving the two demonstrators shouting at both the police and the Romney campaign.
If it was obvious within seconds of Thursday night’s debate that Newt Gingrich was going to hit another rhetorical home run—only long as it took for him to glare icily and say “No, but I will” when John King asked if he wanted to comment about his ex-wife’s unsavory accusations—it was equally clear that Mitt Romney had struck out again when he tried to make a joke out of moderator King’s question about making his tax returns public. Would he follow in his father’s presidential-candidate footsteps and release a dozen years’ worth of returns?
The final few days before the South Carolina primary have become all about Newt Gingrich's apparent last minute surge and Mitt Romney's inability to grapple with questions regarding his personal wealth. If momentum carries through, Gingrich should probably finish ahead of Romney in tomorrow's primary.
I was on the road for a few hours last night and unfortunately missed out on the latest round of "So You Think You Can Beat Barack Obama". Stereotypical liberal that I am, my car radio was instead tuned to NPR and I caught this fascinating interview with billionaire investor Foster Friess.
Newt Gingrich may have almost no chance of becoming president (even if he does win the South Carolina primary tomorrow, as looks increasingly likely), but the man knows his audience. Let's take a look at the way he handled the first question of last night's debate, about allegations by wife #2, Marianne, that when she found out he was cheating on her with a young congressional staffer (who would later become wife #3), he proposed that they have an open marriage, also known as, "You keep your mouth shut and I sleep with whoever I want." After all, Newt does firmly believe that God made marriage a covenant between a man and a woman, and the man's mistress. Could he somehow turn this embarrassing tale to his advantage? Yes he could:
For the first question of tonight’s Republican debate in Charleston, the moderator, CNN’s John King, questioned Gingrich on the allegations made by his ex-wife that he wanted an open marriage. Immediately, Gingrich ripped into King, CNN, and the news media. “I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you begin a presidential debate with a question like that,” declared the former House Speaker.
Had everything gone according to expectations, Saturday’s South Carolina primary would have been the first in a series of showdowns between the surefire Iowa caucus winner, Rick Perry, and the inevitable New Hampshire primary victor, Mitt Romney. But if a presidential candidate has ever failed more spectacularly than Perry to live up to his hype, it’s hard to recall one.