“People around here are more Newtish”

In South Carolina, Gingrich sold himself as a bruiser who would take the fight to Obama and to the Washington establishment


When I first arrived in South Carolina last week, I expected to hear voters complaining about Newt Gingrich’s harsh attacks against Mitt Romney’s business practices at Bain Capital. After all, it seemed contrary to the free market capitalism championed by Republicans. (As Romney put it in his concession speech tonight: “Those who pick up the weapons of the left today will find them used against them tomorrow.”) But what I heard from voters was the opposite — and helps explain how Gingrich beat Romney soundly in the state.

Turns out, it wasn’t so much the content of Gingrich’s harsh attacks that got their attention, it was their very harshness. After losing hard in Iowa where he had pledged to be positive, Gingrich came out swinging. And rather than be defensive in the wake of his ex-wife Marianne’s interview about his infidelity, Gingrich went on the offense and attacked the media for raising the question in the presidential debate. That played well with voters spoiling for a fight — with Obama, with Washington, with the media.

“People around here are more Newtish,” Republican voter, Ida Martin, a 58-year-old bed and breakfast owner, told me at a conservative event in Myrtle Beach. “They like Newt’s wording, how he stands up and has more fire in his belly. Mitt is more reserved. Santorum is a nice person. But Newt is a rebel.”

A rebel who sold himself as a bruiser who would take the fight to Obama and to the Washington establishment: “We need someone strong enough, bold enough, and tough enough, first to go head-to-head with Obama this fall and win the debates and therefore win the election. Second, to go head to head with Washington,” Gingrich repeatedly told South Carolina audiences.

He arrived at campaign events with “Eye of the Tiger,” the theme-song from Rocky blaring from the speakers. He pledged to be a street fighter, on the campaign trail and in office. Gingrich vowed that if he’s the republican nominee, he will stalk Obama around the country and deliver in-person rebuttals to his every campaign speech – until the president agrees to do a series of seven debates with him for three hours. “Wherever he goes, I will show up four hours later – until they decide a debate is less painful,” he said.

He’s also promised, for example, to bring the same approach to foreign policy. “If you look weak and timid, you increase the chances (of Iran developing a nuclear weapon) because you make them believe their aggressiveness is paying off,” he said.

Whether Newtmania can take hold in the less friendly terrain of Florida before January 31 remains to be seen. But for now: En garde!



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“People around here are more Newtish”

  1. “But Newt is a rebel.”

    That’s right, baby. A pudgy, pasty, history professor of a rebel who had the stones to impeach a President over infidelity while cheating on his own wife. He’s a street fighter, a bruiser who promises to go head-to-head with Obama until he bends him to his mighty will.

    I kinda-sorta get US politics, I’ve been following it for a long time. But for the life of me, I will never understand the American voter.

    • Hey, this is the creme de la creme of today’s Republican party….sad, eh?

    • Can’t wait till he breaks out the leather jacket and shades.  I’m with you, I can never believe what sells down there.  Mind you, my Amercan friends can’t explain it either.

  2. Kinda like looking over the edge of a snake pit. Fascinating as hell.
    Can’t take my eyes off it. But, please, please, let’s not go there.

  3. What is fascinating is that while Newt took the Evangelical vote in N.C., he and Santorum, who are both Catholic, are being criticized by a group of Catholic leaders for being racist.

  4. This seems pretty simple to me.  Newt won for one reason, and it’s the same reason he’s going to win the nomination, and then the election.


    Mark my words, with Chuck Norris in his corner, Newt Gingrich will be Emperor of North America by the end of 2012.

    • Norris was a huge help to the McCain/Palin ticket.

      • Indeed. Without Norris, the McCain/Palin ticket might have ended up being deported.

        You don’t mean to say that you think that Chuck Norris should have been able to get a Presidential ticket featuring Sarah Palin elected, do you? Have you SEEN her???

        Chuck Norris may be omnipotent, but he’s not God!

  5. I couldn’t understand 2008’s voters. But I can understand the current ones.

    •  You do realize they’re the same voters, just two and a half years older, right?

  6. A witch has turned people into newts and the question is will they get better? 

    If I was American, I would be Cain supporter, I thought he was brilliant until harassment scandals.

    Newt has good chance now because he’s been one of Repub Party’s lodestars over the past couple of decades and Repub supporters mostly trust him even tho they don’t particularly like him. Romney, on the other hand, is a RINO and a Mormon and many Repub supporters have problems with either/both of those facts. 

    I don’t think Newt is very good candidate but he’s best of bunch that remain in Repub field. I wish Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie would have entered the race – both like a good fight with left wing – but they not as kooky as Newt/Paul nor extreme religious like other Repubs contenders. 

    Repubs think Pres Obama is spastic who can’t put together a coherent thought without his teleprompter so there will be lots of talk about debates with Obama. Debates between Newt and Obama would be fascinating because they are both ideologues. 

    It will be interesting next few months. I wonder if Ron Paul will run as third party candidate in election next autumn or if unknown figure will jump into Repub race now and try to wrest control away from current field. American presidential elections are soap operas for political junkies around the world.

    • Hey Tony…the iPad messed up…I responded to your (as usual) interesting post below. Cheers.

    • Newt has good chance now because he’s been one of Repub Party’s lodestars.

      I guess.  Do people really not remember Newt’s time as speaker clearly though?  Sooner or later the Republicans are bound to remember that it was REPUBLICANS who forced him out of the Speakership.  

      Also, when Newt became the first Speaker in the history of the Republic to be disciplined for ethical violations the final vote was 395–28.

      The fact that “Repubs think Pres Obama is spastic who can’t put together a coherent thought without his teleprompter” could be a big problem for them if it’s true.  Do they not remember 2008 at all?  Gingrich’s success in debates against Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul shouldn’t be the measuring stick I don’t think.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, sooner or later Newt Gingrich is going to get angry.  And you won’t like him when he’s angry, lol.

      • “Do people really not remember Newt’s time as speaker clearly though?  Sooner or later the Republicans are bound to remember that it was REPUBLICANS who forced him out of the Speakership.”

        It was almost as long ago as Rae’s premiereship and Liberals don’t seem to remember that. Also, the mid 90s were a pretty good time in America. Maybe they remember that?

        “As I’ve said elsewhere, sooner or later Newt Gingrich is going to get angry.”

        Umm, that’s why he won isn’t it? Republicans actually ARE angry. Win or lose they probably want someone who is going to get up in Obama’s face and fight for what they believe in. Romney simply can’t do that given his record as governor and Santorum seems too nice to put up the fight they want. I think in a booming economy Romney would easily win and Santorum’s nice guy personality would play better but it’s not the best of times.

        “Do they not remember 2008 at all?”

        This isn’t 2008. That’s not to say that Obama doesn’t still have the upper hand but it’s not like he can run on hope and change and working together while the public has the thrill of electing the first black president and punishing anybody with an (R) next to their name. Pretty much EVERYTHING was on the Democrats side in 2008. It’s a more level playing field this time

        • Only two incumbent Presidents have lost re-election since WWII, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush. I may be proven wrong, but I just don’t see Newt Gingrich as the next Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton.

          Obama beat McCain 365 electoral votes to 173, and won the popular vote by over 9.5 million votes. I’m sure this year’s election will be much closer, but I just don’t see Newt Gingrich being able to turn around those kind of numbers against an incumbent*. Sure, the President’s not popular, but he’s not near the levels that Carter was at, and he’s President at a time when we’re seeing perhaps the most unpopular Congress in the history of the Republic. If the economy gets worse, of course, everything’s up in the air, but most indications seem to be that the economy will be improving (slowly) between now and November, not getting worse. I also think Republicans overestimate Gingich’s intelligence and underestimate his arrogance and ability to put his own foot in his mouth at their peril. As someone in the comments to a National Post story put it “It is only a matter of time before Newt breezily suggests that he was with Washington at Valley Forge, worked on the first draft of the Gettysburg address and held Truman’s horse during an artillery barrage in WW1”. I’m with Kelly McParland on this one, the folks at the White House must have been dancing on tables last night. As McParland puts it, in Gingrich, the Republicans have “A man so hypocritical he must make hypocrites cringe. So divisive that many of the most conservative figures in the country despair of his continued candidacy. So self-absorbed he’s willing to risk cratering the chances of the candidate best placed to challenge Obama, though few people outside his own bedroom think he can pull off a November victory”.

          * That said, all best are off if Gingrich names Chuck Norris as his running mate.

          • I don’t see Gingrich winning either but if you’re Republican and you want a spectacular fight then you vote for him. I get that. Romney is clearly going to be labeled as a 1%er and be on the defensive about it all campaign while Santorum will get walked all over as well.

            Still, I think if there is an overestimation/underestimation here it’s overestimating Obama and underestimating Gingrich. Obama was a blank slate in 2008. He’s not now. And no one could care less about whether Gingrich wanted an open marriage once the election becomes a brawl over Obama’s record. And that’s what the election will be about if Gingrich wins (kind of like 2004 being about Bush’s record). I’d also point out that Clinton was supposed to be a loser until he wasn’t and Obama wasn’t supposed to be Hillary. We lionize the winners only after they win.

            Finally, Congress is always unpopular. Everybody likes their guy and hates everyone else. It will play no meaningful factor in the election which will probably come down to one or two states.

          • I’ll see your historical precedent and raise you one more:

            “Going back to 1956 no incumbent president has lost when unemployment fell over the two years leading up to the election. And none has won when it rose.” (from msnbc.com)

            So Obama may be in trouble. Or he may be in for another history-making election.

        • Republicans are angry? No! You’re kidding, aren’t you?

      • I think Repub nominee was Perry’s to lose and he face planted big time.

        My impression is that many in Repub base are aware of Newt’s shortcomings at this point but they don’t care because they want to coalesce around anyone other than Romney. 

        President is not that impressive speaker so I don’t know what we supposed to remember about ’08 exactly and Obama has four year record to run on now. Public is no longer swooning when they hear We Are Ones We Waiting For. 

  7. Obama an ideologue? Which ideology? The one that wants to cut Medicare? The one who has laid off half a million government employees? The one who refuses to prosecute the previous administration for war crimes? The one who has lowered taxes?

    He’s a shifty one, this Obama.

    Interesting how Republicans are absolutely convinced that Newt will destroy (DESTROY) Obama in the debates due to his (Newt’s) vastly superior intellect. Does that no remind you of the expectations of a certain ex-pat Liberal leader in a recently contested election? So much garbage one hears from either side is so easily recycled and thrown back in their faces no?

    I also find it interesting Newt is running as an outsider. I don’t believe he has ever made a single dollar in his life that was not connected to a government teat somewhere. His disingenuousness will not go over well with normal, rational people (i.e. non-partisans).

    • “Obama an ideologue? Which ideology?The one that wants to cut Medicare? The one who has laid off half a million government employees?” 

      occam’s razor?

      President Obama has run out of money like Iron Lady warned he would. 

      Senator Obama talking to Joe/Plumber – Oct 2008  ” …..  I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” 

      BusinessWeek ~ March 2009:
      He’s out. General Motors Chairman and CEO G. Richard Wagoner Jr. has been asked by President Barack Obama’s Administration to step down in advance of GM’s getting any further funds from the federal government.

      WSJ ~ Why ObamaCare Losing In Courts:
      But because the future consumption of nearly all existing goods and services is inevitable across the entire population, this argument means that Americans can then be compelled to purchase an infinite variety of goods and services chosen by Washington. Far from limiting what government can do, this is the ultimate enabling principle. Even Soviet apparatchiks, who told producers what to make, did not dare tell people what to buy.

  8. The important lesson here is that the harshness of the attacks is what turned it around.

     You think things are bare knuckle up here? You ain’t seen anything yet!

    This will be the new norm in political clashes, with deep pockets more able to run the slum ads that dish dirt, half truths and little else; remember, It doesn’t have to be true, it just has to be plausible.  Real debate and real issues will become orphans and the new lows we encounter will make us nostalgic for the honourable standards of  2008. 

    24/7/365 campaigning
    negative branding
    partisan infomercials posing as balanced reporting
    playing to the lowest common denominator 

    It’s “reality TV” with much more at stake, though most casual observers would be more interested in……….. I don’t know…..Facebook?

     We’re not immune up here and I think it’s safe to say it’s already arrived. But it’s going to get worse. A lot worse.

  9. I feel genuinely sorry for US voter. As a liberal i think Obama’s feet should be held to the fire; he should have to explain why he hasn’t lived up to his yes we can change rhetoric[ could anyone who didn’t have a demonstated ability to walk on water?]. That’s not going to happen – no intellectually honest liberal or moderate con is runnning against him.Instead what is on offer to American voters is the wackiest collection of incompetetents and hypocrical retreads ever put together under a conservative banner.  
    The US political system seems to have degenerated into a perfect machine for rewarding demagogues, uber partisan base pleasers and breathlessly shameless hypocrites…no honest citizen need apply anymore.
    A quick look at US political history might well argue it has always been thus down there – completely bare knuckle. It also might reveal a rich seam of serious and intelligent candidates who know eventually they will have to put some water in their wine and deal with the world as it is rather then as it should be in some Burtonesque nightmare.
    I no longer have the confidence that if a  guy called Newt should happen to win out he will immediately take off his anti liberal outfit, his anti intellectual , anti Democratic party armour of necessity/expediency, and avoid having  to say: take a big stick to America’s courts and judiciary in order to right the world and save true Americans from nanny intellectuals ; confidence that he didn’t actually mean it reallly and now it would get tossed on histories ash heap – thankfully, like a lot of other borderline insane notions. But no, this time i have the feeling this guy’s  committed all the way down the line. Man i hope i’m more delusional then a guy called Newt.

    • It’s ludicrous.  There are probably 100 million Republicans in the U.S.A. and the guy in the lead for the nomination is Newt.  Corporate America will be oh so happy,

      • Corporate America already owns all candidates in both parties.  The only issue is how much to spend on bread and circuses.

  10. Bed & Breakfast owners vote Republican?

    • Yes we do

  11. As an American of the Democratic persuasion, I’m relishing all of this. Newt is a typical right-wing zealot, making all sorts of statements intended to endear him to the Tea Party fringe that he hopes will win him the nomination. But if he’s nominated (which I strongly doubt) he’ll face a brick wall of resistance from the vast majority of Americans who don’t see things his way. He could face an electoral route similar to the humiliation dealt out to George McGovern when he ran against Nixon more than a generation ago. Seriously, he could lose in all 50 states. The thing to remember about American politics is that whack jobs like Newt and (insert name of any other candidate here) are taken “seriously” during the primaries because the voting process magnifies the influence of fanatical “fringe” groups. I’m talking to you, Tea Party. But their influence will be greatly reduced in the general election, when everybody — or at least, everybody who wishes to — votes. If Romney wins the nomination, Obama is probably safe. If Newt does, Obama’s on cruise control to a second term. It will be a fun-to-watch romp. Or at least, we Democrats will find it fun.

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