Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Gingrich Clearly Wins South Carolina Debate

Newt Gingrich clearly dominated the South Carolina GOP debate last night. He received two standing ovations and his statements were often followed by loud, lengthy applause. The former US House Speaker needed to do well after he allowed the negative ads run against him in Iowa to affect him and his campaign, and he did so.
English: Newt Gingrich
Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich
Image via Wikipedia

Gingrich won the debate by dealing in specifics. Other candidates, President Barack Obama comes to mind, do better when they are allowed to make broad, gilded generalities that have less substance than a cotton candy hologram. Gingrich revels in applying the lessons of the past to the present and it's one of the reasons most people believe that Gingrich would destroy the sitting President in a debate.

Gingrich started slowly, having an uneasy time defending his attacks on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's stint at Bain Capital. He muddled through eventually, though.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum cleaned Romney's clock in an exchange about the attack ads run by the superPAC that supports Romney. Santorum forced Romney to admit that his state of Massachusetts had a more liberal law than the one Santorum voted for and that the representation in the ads did not fairly depict Santorum's position. Santorum failed; however, to look at Romney and add the killer line that I expected: "In fact, Governor Romney, the position your superPAC accuses me of having is identical to the one you tolerated as Massachusetts Governor, isn't it?"

Not letting a good opportunity go to waste, Texas Governor Rick Perry jumped in to add that the "two insiders" were discussing business that should be decided at the state level in deference to the 10th Amendment. For this, there was much applause.

Perry did well during the debate and was consistently upbeat and confident. He projected an aura of dependability and understated self-assurance that were missing in the earlier debates.

Senator Santorum has a tendency to talk too much after he has made his point. He must overcome this flaw if he wants to keep audiences alert and following what he wants them to hear. He is; however, much less grim than in earlier debates which makes him somewhat more likable.

Santorum was on his game last night. He was aggressive and responded well. If he had been less verbose, then I would have graded him much higher.

Representative Ron Paul does not do well with foreign policy simply because the majority of Americans and a large majority of Republicans do not agree with his positions. Naturally, most of his questions revolved around foreign policy rather than his strong point of economics.

After getting beaten up during the first part of the debate, Governor Romney was like one of James Bond's martinis: shaken. He did get his act together and performed acceptably during the remainder of the debate, but that was it. It may be all he needed to do to maintain a shrinking lead in South Carolina, but I don't think so.

Speaker Gingrich was at his best, most specific and most blunt during an exchange with Fox News contributor Juan Williams and with Congressman Paul. Juan Williams actually was booed by the crowd for asking Gingrich to address how his statements might be offensive to African-Americans, but I believe Mr. Williams was simply doing his job and it certainly worked well for Gingrich.

From the Fox News Insider site's transcript of the debate, here is a part of the exchange:

WILLIAMS: The suggestion that he made was about a lack of work ethic. And I’ve got to tell you, my e-mail account, my Twitter account has been inundated with people of all races who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities.
You saw some of this reaction during your visit…
… to a black church in South Carolina. You saw some of this during your visit to a black church in South Carolina, where a woman asked you why you refer to President Obama as “the food stamp president.” It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people.
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.
Now, I know among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.
Second, you’re the one who earlier raised a key point. There’s — the area that ought to be I-73 was called by Barack Obama a corridor of shame because of unemployment. Has it improved in three years? No. They haven’t built the road. They haven’t helped the people. They haven’t done anything.
BAIER: Finish your thought, Mr. Speaker.
GINGRICH: One last thing.
BAIER: Yes, sir.
GINGRICH: So here’s my point. I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness. And if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.
BAIER: Okay. When we come back — they can’t hear me, but I’ll talk to you, foreign policy. Bring me your questions, BretBair, include hash tag SCdebates after this break.
Fox News anchor Bret Baier could not be heard by the audience because of the raucous, standing applause Gingrich was receiving. Later, pollster Frank Luntz stated that in his 16 years of involvement in politics he had never seen a standing ovation during a debate.

Gingrich came back later and nailed down the debate when he added this, also from the transcripts:

GINGRICH: . . . Furthermore, when you give a country $20 billion, and you learn that they have been hiding — I mean, nobody in their — nobody believes that bin Laden was sitting in a compound in a military city one mile from the national defense university and the Pakistanis didn’t know it. Now…(APPLAUSE)We’re in South Carolina. South Carolina in the Revolutionary War had a young 13-year-old named Andrew Jackson. He was sabred by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life. Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them.(APPLAUSE)
Gingrich got more wild applause for this statement and if he had not previously won the audience over then this would have done it. Is it enough to carry Gingrich to victory in South Carolina? I believe it will do so unless Gingrich makes a huge mistake between now and primary day.

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Written by Ken Carroll

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