Why Mitt Romney lost to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina

A couple of days ago, Mitt Romney was leading by 14 points in South Carolina – and he lost it by 12 points. What happened?

First, here’s a snippet from Gingrich’s victory speech:

“One of the key issues and I’m prepared to take this straight at the president and frankly straight at the elite media. One of the key issues is the growing anti-religious bigotry of our elites, and if you go to newt.org, my campaign site there’s a 54-page paper there on the balance of power, putting the judiciary back in its proper role in eliminating dictatorial bigots such as justice Berry in San Antonio who issued a ruling not only could the students not pray at their graduation, if they used the word “benediction” the word “invocation,” the word “God,” asked the audience to stand or a moment of silence he would put the superintendent in jail. Now we don’t have speech dictatorship in America by anti-religious bigots, period.

The second big theme, frankly, is one that every South Carolinian understands. It’s jobs, economic growth, balancing the budget, having stable money, and let’s be very clear, and again this makes some of the elite media nervous. President Obama has been historically the most effective food stamp president in American history. I worked with ronald reagan to create jobs and 16 million jobs were created by the American people in the 1980s. i worked with Bill Clinton, a democrat to create jobs and 11 million jobs were created by the American people during the four years that I was speaker.

I would like to be the best paycheck president in American history and I want to go into every neighborhood of every ethnic background in every part of the country and say to people very simply, if you want your children to have a life of dependency and food stamps, you have a candidate as Barack Obama. If you want your children to have a life of independency and paychecks, you have a candidate that’s Newt Gingrich, and I’ll bet you we have votes everywhere.”

That’s red meat for conservatives. We like policy papers and statistics. We like substance and bold contrasts.

Byron York explains how Newt won in the Washington Examiner. (H/T Smitty @ The Other McCain)


Romney stages perfect events.  For example, on the eve of the primary, Romney’s rally in North Charleston was perfect from a production point of view: stage just right, big flags, big Romney signs, smooth introductions from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, all topped off by a showy entrance by Romney, who arrived in his big campaign bus that drove right into the room.

It was perfect in every sense but engaging with the voters.  Romney’s stump speech was a clipped — some would say dumbed down — list of generalities, concluding with this: “I love this land, I love its Constitution, I revere its founders, I will restore those principles, I will get America back to work, and I’ll make sure that we remain the shining city on the hill.”  Romney offered his supporters very little to chew on.  In this primary race, voters are hungry for substance, and Romney didn’t give them much.

Gingrich’s last event before the voting, a couple of hours later, was a rally on the hangar deck of the USS Yorktown, a World War II aircraft carrier that is now a floating museum across the bay from Charleston.  It was a most un-perfect affair.  To begin with, it just so happened that dozens of Cub Scouts were having an overnight on the Yorktown at the same time as Gingrich and the press showed up for the rally.  Their presence contributed to an air of happy chaos on board, and Gingrich was delighted to invite a few scouts on stage with him at the beginning of his speech.  When Gingrich got to the substance of his remarks, he was wandering, expansive, and detailed, where Romney had been brief and canned.  But Gingrich kept the crowd with him the whole way, and in the end had engaged his audience more than Romney could have hoped for.  Gingrich respected them enough to discuss issues with them seriously.

[…]Gingrich’s success here in South Carolina shows more than just a skepticism toward establishment Republicanism.  It also shows a hunger for real substance in the campaign, for a candidate who will talk to voters and give them more than phrases like “I believe in America.”  Mitt Romney’s team of seasoned campaign professionals may not think Newt Gingrich has any business playing a deciding role in the race.  But they better believe it, and they better take seriously what the Gingrich challenge represents — before it’s too late.

If you listen to Romney closely in debates, he never speaks like Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum. With those two, you get specifics. Rick Santorum talks about his efforts to push for balanced budgets or his bill to ban partial birth abortions.  Newt Gingrich talks about the millions of jobs created when he was Speaker of the House and his 98.5% pro-life voting record.

What does Mitt Romney talk about? He never talks about his record – because it’s liberal. He passed socialized medicine with taxpayer subsidies for abortions. He raised taxes by $740 million dollars. He handed out licenses for gay marriages. When he speaks, he talks about how much he loves the United States, and how he would like to achieve results – results he never achieved when he was governor of Massachusetts. Mitt Romney has a Democrat record.

Note: Gingrich was losing to Romney 43-18 in Florida according to the January 17th CNN poll, but the latest ARG poll has Gingrich up 34.4 to 25.6, and the latest Rasmussen Reports poll has it at 41-32 for Newt. That’s how quickly things change because of a couple of good debates, with some real substance.

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7 thoughts on “Why Mitt Romney lost to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina”

  1. Romney’s motto might be “polls, not principles.” Perhaps that’s harsh, but he wants to win with moderates, so he has to tip-toe around controversial, ideological issues, and blather platitudes like “I love this land, I love its Constitution, I revere its founders, I will restore those principles, I will get America back to work, and I’ll make sure that we remain the shining city on the hill.” I agree, but Obama would say the same thing. Unless these ideas are tied to principled thought and conservative policy they don’t mean much.


    1. I’m beginning to think that the reason people are voting for Newt is because they know that the media is going to win this election for Obama by hiding his record UNLESS the voters elect someone who will fight the media and BEAT THEM. They want a beat down of the liberal media and they want Obama to be held accountable for his abject failures.


      1. Sounds reasonable. Rush said something similar: “Newt is not getting these votes because there’s a wild, uncontrollable desire for him to be president. It’s the message that he’s sending. He is speaking for millions of Republicans who see the way he’s doing things as a solution, and as a strategy for victory over Barack Obama. Newt’s a messenger.” Basically, voters want someone who will call it like it is, and not back down.


        1. They would like Obama to be held accountable for ruining the lives of millions of people who have wrecked resumes now, because of unemployment, and for burdening future generations of Americans with debt so that the grown-ups today could have an inflated standard of living. It’s intergenerational theft and it makes me sick.


    1. It makes you wonder what the Democrats are talking about when they talk about income inequality. The incomes are different, but the amount of wealth people have is the same – life outcomes are being equalized for those who work and for those who don’t work. Working is for chumps, in other words.


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