Republican Race Shaken Up in South Carolina

Republican Race Shaken Up in South CarolinaWith the South Carolina Primary a mere two days away, it seems the Republican Primary has taken another dramatic turn. Following a supposedly strong performance in Monday night’s debate, it seems as though the conservative wing of the party is beginning to coalesce around Newt Gingrich. Monday night’s debate was a raucous affair, the South Carolinian crowd sounded like they were at a sporting event, hooting and hollering after every answer. Though perhaps should be expected, it was Joe Wilson after all, a congressman from South Carolina, who shouted “you lie!” during a 2009 Presidential address.

Juan Williams, the Fox News pundit by way of NPR, got the brunt of the crowd’s anger. He was booed in the middle of asking Mitt Romney a question about his father’s Mexican heritage. He aroused even more ire when he asked Newt to clarify his statements about having inner city kids working as janitors and his labeling of Obama as a “food stamp president,” Williams asked “Can’t you see this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but as particularly to black Americans?” Gingrich doubled down on his statements, drawing rousing cheers from the audience, and gave an impassioned, though perhaps rambling and paternalistic, defense of his argument. The exchange was hailed as a masterful moment for Newt, and was turned into a Gingrich TV spot.

Yesterday, I was trolling the conservative blog Redstate, wherein the editor in chief, CNN’s own Eric Erickson, called on Rick Perry to end his run and endorse Mr. Gingrich. Redstate had been a bastion of support for Perry, so to see them urging him to end his run was telling. Conservatives were not going quietly into the cold dark night that is a Romney nomination. Today, Mr. Perry seems to have heeded that advice; he dropped out of the race and endorsed Gingrich. This came on the heels of new polling out South Carolina showing Mr. Gingrich ascendent and in the lead over Mr. Romney. Additionally, the final vote count of the Iowa Caucus, showed that Rick Santorum had eked out a small victory over Romney, belying his claim that he was the first non-incumbent to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. Even Sarah Palin joined the fray, giving a quasi endorsement of Mr. Gingrich on Fox News. With another debate tonight on CNN, South Carolinians will have a lot to think about on Saturday. The Republican nomination, which seemed all but sealed up for Mr. Romney earlier this week, is very much up for grabs.

It wasn’t all good poll numbers and cheering crowds for Mr. Gingrich, however. Yesterday, brought the blaring red Drudge siren that serves as the harbinger of ‘big news’. The scintillating story was that Newt’s second wife sat down with ABC News after alleging that she had enough dirt on Newt to end his career. Drudge reported an internal debate at ABC news about when to air the interview, but apparently it will be featured on tonight’s episode of Nightline. Gingrich surrogates, including his own daughters, have taken to the airwaves arguing that Marianne Gingrich is not to be trusted due to lasting anger over their bitter divorce. Apparently in this interview, Marianne claims that Newt asked for divorce just months after she was diagnosed with MS. When one considers that Newt ended his first marriage while his wife was in treatment for Cancer, it doesn’t seem indicate that he’s a man of great character. For what it’s worth, Mr. Romney’s wife Ann has had MS since 1998.

It’s stories like these that have haunted Newt’s hunt for the nomination. The public seems to feel lingering uneasiness and a residual dislike for a man who’s the consummate politician. That Newt has managed to overcome a long history of personal and political missteps is a testament to his political skill. Moreover, the fact that he has managed to convince the conservative base that he was the only alternative to Romney despite the fact that he’s finished 4th in both contests up till now is remarkable. Mr. Gingrich talks with a self assured, arrogant, measured tone. He talks as though he thinks he’s the smartest man in the room, and it seems that Republicans in South Carolina have bought into that conception. Expect a negative couple of days until Saturday’s primary. South Carolina is the land of the push poll, where an adopted Bangladeshi daughter can be turned into a black daughter out of wedlock in a matter of hours. Democrats can enjoy the Republican bloodletting with a detached amusement, while Republicans are in for a wild ride.

(photo courtesy of Politico)

Jonah Redel-Traub is a blogger from New York City. Recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Mr. Redel-Traub started The Redel Traub Report, which features his hard hitting, insightful, tre ...read more

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