Well, Newt Gingrich just went and blew the Republican primaries out of the water. What was shaping up as a done deal for Mitt Romney, and quite frankly, a decidedly boring outcome for political junkies everywhere, just got interesting. As Rundle writes today, “this thing is on”.
And to think that Newt’s moment, his turning point, his moment of truth, came via that traditional campaign killer, the disgruntled ex-lover.
Gingrich, with nothing to lose and not much of a choice, opened the second South Carolina debate by blasting CBS for its first question about ex-Mrs Gingrich’s charge that he had requested an open marriage. Gingrich then went on to win the SC primary with more than 40% of the vote. Of course, the first three minutes of a debate didn’t do it alone, as Rundle points out today, Newt’s secret weapon against Mitt Romney is … Mitt Romney, but it was, as they say, a moment. A chance for Gingrich to align himself with the conservatives by attacking the elite media.
Never mind the hypocrisy of the man who led the charge against president’s Clinton’s impeachment (while at the same time conducting an affair of his own, with now-third wife Callista). No, no nothing to see there. Ever the wordsmith, and the man can debate, he addressed that issue back in March last year. And besides, as South Carolina non candidate Stephen Colbert pointed out, “Here’s the thing that I don’t think Newt Gingrich gets enough credit for: a lot of politicians screw around on their wives, but he was enough of a gentleman to ask permission. That’s a Southern gentleman.”
Yes, far be it from Newt to inject any sense of reality to this campaign. After all, he got the biggest cheer during the second debate for his jibes at the “food-stamp” President. He’s being lauded for his authentic conservative profile, which apparently trumps his chequered past, and he’s found fertile ground attacking Romney’s business record, sneering the term “CEO” as the ultimate insult. Romney in turn has now finally agreed to release his personal tax records, which might be an idea, given his mumbling admission a week ago that he “probably” paid 15% (which is more than John Kerry paid, but let’s not quibble with details here …)
A few weeks ago The New York Times introduced a storm of derision by asking if the paper should become a “truth vigilante”, which might sound like the Grey Lady was preparing to take up arms, but really just meant they were asking if they should test the truth of candidates’ sound bites as part of their reporting, as opposed to just repeating the statements ad nauseum. To which everyone, including us, responded, hell yes. Until the US media start go vigilante, Newt and Romney and the whole damn race will continue as always to campaign on the vibe of the thing, without context, qualifiers, or any inconvenient facts.
In the meantime, to Florida …