By BOBBIE McAULIFFE
South Carolina is in the can. It is no surprise that Newt Gingrich won but the margin is a surprise. Most people in the South are not fond of northeast Republicans. It helped that Newt is from a next door state.
So each of the upper-tier candidates still in the race have now won one state. Iowa went to Santorum, New Hampshire went to Romney and now South Carolina is in the Gingrich column.
Time will tell how far that momentum will carry him. Newt is not a real favorite of the media and I urge voters to look at why. Some will say the media favors “the establishment” but I don’t think that is all there is to it.
His personal character aside, Newt has many faults his supporters choose to ignore in their anti-Romney zeal. They tout his debating skills, and he is a grand debater. He has plenty of speaking experience. He has done little except speak and write books since leaving Congress.
A great debater does not necessarily make a great leader.
Newt gets (takes) credit for a lot of things he does not deserve full credit for; starting with the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress.
That came about because Rick Santorum, John Boehner, and a handful of other GOP freshmen elected in 1990, began an investigation into what became the House Banking Scandal. Two years later Newt Gingrich, Minority Whip at the time, came on board seeing this as an opportunity to oust enough Democrats for Republicans to win the 1994 races and himself to become the powerful Speaker of the House. At the time Gingrich himself had 22 kited checks at the bank.
The Contract with America was born and the 1994 elections saw Republicans win the majority in both houses. Rick Santorum won election to the U.S. Senate and played a major role in pushing the Contract through that body.
Newt claims to have balanced the budget 4 times during his tenure as Speaker, but nearly a trillion dollars was added to the national debt during that time and he was forced to increase the debt limit once. Remember the government shutdown in 1996?
The former Speaker claims credit for welfare reform, but President Clinton vetoed the Welfare Reform bill twice. It was Santorum who wrote the final bill that President Clinton actually reluctantly signed.
Since announcing his candidacy there have been many questions raised about Newt’s leadership skills. Oklahomans are most familiar with Senator Coburn’s comments that he could not support the former Speaker for POTUS.
The National Journal published a column in December 2011 written by former Oklahoma Congressman Mickey Edwards in which he says
“It is time to think seriously about the future of the United States. It is not a future we want to enter with a Newt Gingrich in the Oval Office.” http://nationaljournal.com/2012-presidential-campaign/imagining-a-gingrich-presidency-20111221
Earlier that month the National Journal published another column by Major Garrett where former staff members were interviewed and described how difficult it was to work for Speaker Gingrich because he seemed not to be able to stay focused. “He had a new idea every 13 seconds but did not follow through.” http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/gingrich-as-manager-20111208
With those facts in mind, consider that Newt had three staff turnovers in the early part of his campaign. No one wanted to work for him for very long, especially volunteers.
In researching all of the candidates I learned that by the end of his first term as Speaker, House members were questioning his leadership abilities for those same reasons and Gingrich barely defeated Dick Gephart (D) in January 1997 to hold on to the gavel, even though Republicans held the majority of seats.
During that second term Oklahoma Congressman Steve Largent led an effort to replace Gingrich as Speaker and on the day after the 1998 General Election he “retired” rather than face the embarrassment of rejection by his own party.
Let’s look at some of the other negatives the media will beat Newt up with.
First, he is the only Speaker who has ever been sanctioned by the House of Representatives. More than 80 ethics violations were filed against him. All but one was dismissed when he agreed to pay a $300K fine and borrowed money from Bob Dole to help him do that.
Remember him sitting on the couch with Nancy Pelosi discussing global warming?
His association with Freddie Mac.
He spoke out in favor of TARP.
His position on illegal immigration is to allow those who have been here for a long time without getting into trouble should be given amnesty.
A few days before the South Carolina primary he had the gall to suggest that Santorum drop out of the race so he could win, citing Santorum’s lack of experience in running a campaign. Santorum had already beaten him in Iowa and New Hampshire where Santorum exceeded expectations according to the polls and Gingrich fell far short.
The only elections Gingrich had won (at that time) was to the House from one heavy Republican district in Georgia. Santorum was elected twice to the House from Pennsylvania, defeating a Democrat incumbent the first time, then elected twice to the Senate, again defeating a Democrat incumbent the first time, in a blue industrial State that had a million more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Conservatives are anxious to get President Obama out of office, but before we get too far into this election cycle they need to be very careful about who or what they replace him with.