Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Quiet Time

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Whether intentionally or not, NBC News handicapped Newt Gingrich by asking the audience to stay quiet during the Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Florida. In South Carolina, the audience was a source of energy for Gingrich. With their whoops and hollers, they emboldened the former House speaker and cowed his competitors. By contrast, without an obvious sign of support from the crowd, Gingrich was surprisingly vulnerable to Mitt Romney’s attacks on his record. And as the candidate with the most to lose in Florida, Romney was relentless, aggressively pressing Gingrich on his ties to Freddie Mac. Here’s the exchange in full: Because there wasn’t an overall direction to Romney’s attacks, it’s hard to say that there was a knock-out moment. But in a state hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, it’s enough for Romney to raise the issue and present Gingrich as an inside man for an industry that ruined life for thousands of Floridians. What’s more, this exchange illustrated the extent to...

Romney's Plan B

The whuppin’ Mitt Romney took in South Carolina made one thing abundantly clear: The man desperately needs a new rationale for his candidacy. “Electability” doesn’t cut it when your own party starts rejecting you. And in a time of renewed class consciousness, neither does touting yourself as a grand master of private equity. “He can’t run for CEO any more,” writes Michael Walsh at NRO. So what can he run as? If his campaigning in Florida today was any indication, the Romney people have no answer as yet. At a rally in Ormond Beach, Romney went whole-hog negative against Gingrich. “We’re not choosing a talk show host, we’re choosing a leader,” Romney said, while denouncing Gingrich’s “failure” as House speaker and railing about his Freddie Mac lobbying gig . In Tampa, he labeled Gingrich “highly erratic.” Of course, there are millions of miles of bad Gingrich road to use as fodder for attacks. But will going all attack-dog make Romney a more appealing candidate? RedState’s Erick...

Turning Tide

Mitt Romney had little reason for concern heading into Saturday's primary in South Carolina. Sure, it looked as if Newt Gingrich would eke out a victory in the state, but Romney's status as the inevitable front-runner would remain unchallenged. The Florida primary at the end of the month would likely prove his knockout blow; he has held a massive lead in Florida polls—often topping 20 percent—and also has a resource advantage over Gingrich and a steady flow of support from popular establishment Republicans eyeballing a position in a Romney administration. Those advantages suddenly crumbled away over the past 48 hours. Romney didn't just lose South Carolina, he was drubbed. Gingrich's 13-point victory was even larger than George W. Bush's margin over John McCain in 2000. His fellow Republicans, who once flocked to his campaign in order to get in early with the preordained nominee, are showing a moment of pause. It had been reported the previous week that former Florida Governor Jeb...

The Medium

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. But that one-quarter of the electorate happens to be known as the Republican base. How is he doing it? The answer is that he has become a medium through which that base hears themselves speaking. Nobody knows how to reach in and tickle the Republican id quite like Newt, to work their resentments, their fears, their anger and their hatred. And what he's saying to them...

Atlas Slugged

A lthough 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. Thus the front-runner founders on the very finances that provided his candidacy a rationale. But Romney’s problem isn’t how much money he has. His problem is how he made it, how he’s kept it, and how come he won’t talk about it. If Romney’s campaign for the presidency should collapse, the...

The Carolina Conundrum

T he 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. Even then, with a clear demonstration of Newt’s momentum, I wasn’t sure that he could pull out a win on Saturday. After all, as far as GOP primaries are concerned, South Carolina Republicans aren’t known for their embrace of firebrands; nearly every time, they validate the elite choice. And with the strength of the establishment behind him, Mitt Romney seemed like he would likely continue the trend. As it turned out, of course, my lack of faith was unfounded. The mass of undecided South Carolinians—nearly half of voters made their choice within a few days of the primary—...

Politics of Resentment

Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect Newt Gingrich supporters hold up signs in support of the candidate after his victory in South Carolina. COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA —At 7:01—one minute after the polls closed—the local news affiliate announced the results of the South Carolina Republican primary. Newt Gingrich was the projected winner, with a margin in the double-digits. For the already large crowd of supporters waiting in the ballroom of the Columbia Hilton, where the Gingrich campaign scheduled its election-night event, this was the moment they had waited for. Dozens of people began to shout the former Speaker’s name—”Newt, Newt, Newt!”—as they waved signs and the DJ blared a (ridiculous) techno cover of Journey’s hit single, “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Among the chanters was Vicki Sciolaro, a volunteer for Gingrich who had traveled 900 miles from Leewood, Kansas to support the former House Speaker in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. “He is brilliant,” she said,...

Dark Horse Victory

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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. Gingrich, who finished fourth in both Iowa and New Hampshire, eased up on his denunciations of Romney’s record at Bain Capital—with the damage already done—and made the most of his local knowledge from next-door Georgia to deliver rabble-rousing performances at Monday and...

No One Cares About the Affair

Jamelle Bouie Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks to a crowd in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina —One of the larger tourist landmarks in the Charleston-area is a decommissioned warship that’s been converted to a museum. Naturally—as a “grandiose” person—this is where Newt Gingrich held his final rally before the South Carolina primary. Due to bad weather, the event was moved below the flight deck into a hangar. The delay was annoying for reporters—and early birds—but it was great for attendance; by the time Gingrich came to the stage, the hangar was packed with people. Gingrich was introduced by the Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives—who recently endorsed the GOP hopeful—and General James Livingston, who praised the former House Speaker as someone who knew how to “kill the enemy.” As for the actual speech, it began with a group of Cub Scouts, who he brought on stage, and a heckler. The person yelled at Gingrich to release his ethics...

Take Your Free Speech Elsewhere

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. I spoke with one of the protesters, Adrianna Varedi, a member of Occupy Charleston, and she explained the situation. “I was standing in line, quietly, reaching out to shake his [Romney’s] hand, when someone forcefully grabbed me from behind, and dragged me out,” she said, catching her breath as the color returned to her face. Another one of the Occupiers, an older man named Paul Getsos, explained that this wasn’t the first time someone had been removed from a Romney event “The advance...

The Thrill is Back

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? “Maybe,” the frontrunner said, affecting the sort of goofy look that flailing stand-up comics resort to when their material is hopelessly lame. (And then, like Romney, they get well-deserved catcalls and boos instead of laughs.) At least until tomorrow night’s South Carolina results come in, the CNN debate was the thrills-and-chills capper to a week that breathed—no, heaved and spat—life back into the Republican contest. Huntsman out . Perry out ...

Vice Presidents for Romney

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. But Romney will remain the clear frontrunner for the overall nomination. Don't believe us in the pundit class? Just look at where Republican elites are headed. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell shows up on almost every shortlist of potential vice presidential candidates and, as Jamelle pointed out earlier , he endorsed Romney this afternoon. Almost every rising star of the Republican Party has attached themselves to Romney's campaign. Just glance at the list of nine possible VPs The New Republic gathered from talking to Republican insiders. Five had endorsed Romney while the others (save Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval) have decided to sit out the endorsement game. John Thune and Rob...

Bob McDonnell Endorses Romney

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell—a rising star in the Republican Party—has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Here’s McDonnell in his own words : “President Obama’s lack of leadership experience is now clear—he has failed to turn around the economy and end the gridlock in Washington. Mitt Romney used his leadership ability in a politically difficult environment to balance the budget every year, cut spending and taxes, and create jobs. He is a results-oriented conservative. This is the type of record that conservatives like me are honored to support—we need a leader like Mitt Romney in the White House to enact effective change that will put our country back on the right path and Americans back to work.” For anyone who has followed McDonnell, this doesn’t come as a big surprise. The Virginia governor shares a certain pragmatism with the former Massachusetts governor, and is firmly ensconced within the Republican Party establishment. Indeed, like Romney, McDonnell marries a regressive,...

The Misfits

Jamelle Bouie Texas Congressman Ron Paul talks to a small group of supporters in North Charleston, South Carolina. North Charleston, South Carolina —Ron Paul seems to have a thing for airports. Of the two rallies I’ve attended for the Texas congressman, both have been in airport hangars on the outskirts of a major city (in this case, Charleston). But while the first event was packed with supporters, this one had far fewer attendees—excluding press, I counted 80 people, which was barely enough to surround the stage where Paul spoke. More important, as with Paul supporters in other states, these voters weren’t typical Republicans, if they were Republicans at all. Alexandra (she declined to give her last name), for example, was a traveling nurse who just came back from assignment in Jordan. While abroad, she didn’t pay much attention to the Republican primaries and saw this as the best opportunity to see what Paul had to say. Her big issue? She wants someone who can help reduce student-...

Inside The Mind of a Conservative Billionaire

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. Friess is one of a handful of rich conservatives reshaping campaign finance. A Rick Santorum supporter, Friess has reportedly provided most of the funds for the Red, White and Blue Fund, the super PAC buying ads on Santorum's behalf. Back when candidate specific super PACs began popping up last year, there was concern that billionaires such as Friess would keep their favored candidate funded with no public scrutiny. Super PACs have looser filing requirements than the actual candidates, only filing reports twice a year and if they wanted these billionaires could funnel money through various organizations, obscuring the original source. Instead, many such as Friess and Gingrch supporter Sheldon...

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