Well, what exactly would you expect him to say? After telling MSNBC on Wednesday that “if Romney can win South Carolina, he’s probably going to be the nominee,” Newt Gingrich can’t say anything but victory will be mine … probably:
Barely equivocating, while still managing to hedge his bets, the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on CBS News’ Face the Nation that he was “probably going to win” in South Carolina.
“As a Georgia Reagan Conservative, I fit much more comfortably with the average South Carolina Republican,” he said, in comparison to a “Massachusetts moderate.”
South Carolina is actually a curious hill on which to make a final stand. One might expect Gingrich to hedge his bets and hold out for Florida, where a pragmatist like Newt might find a little support. This sounds like Gingrich might once again be confusing his role as candidate with his previous role as political analyst for the media, or his apparent secondary role now as campaign strategist.
Speaking of campaign strategist, the audience at Mike Huckabee’s candidate forum in South Carolina gave him an earful about his latest attack strategy. When Gingrich mentioned Mitt Romney by name — a big no-no at this event, for which Huckabee scolded him — and accused him of “draining capital” from companies bought by Bain, Gingrich’s response provoked a chorus of boos:
I included the entire sequence so that the boos could be heard in context. By the end of Gingrich’s explanation, in which he warned that Romney as a nominee would face the same kind of attack in the general election, he received polite applause. However, thanks to the eruption of the Bain debate in January, the Obama re-elect campaign has already begun attacking Romney as “a corporate raider”:
For months, President Obama’s re-election team and the Democratic party have acted on the presumption that Romney will be the GOP nominee. Today, the Obama campaign released a four-page memo focusing on Romney’s business record. The memo slams Romney as a “corporate raider,” borrowing the slur used in a series of ads sponsored by a pro-Gingrich super PAC.
The super PAC ads, cut from a 28-minute web video called “King of Bain,” hit the South Carolina airwaves on Thursday and call Bain Capital “more ruthless than Wall Street.”
The Obama campaign memo, penned by Stephanie Cutter, mirrors that argument. “With the devastation he left in his wake, Romney’s business record doesn’t reflect the virtues of free enterprise so much as the worst exploitation of it,” Cutter wrote.
One could make the argument that the attacks by Gingrich and Rick Perry will make Romney stronger by forcing him to hone his response to the Bain attacks now, rather than in October. It could also be true that the awful job of research and seriously misleading presentation in “King of Bain”, coupled with Gingrich’s falling status in the primaries, will give the Bain attack a stink of desperation that will make it very difficult for Obama to exploit in the fall. But it’s equally likely that having these kinds of wild, inaccurate attacks come from Republicans will give Obama more credibility to pursue these attacks in the fall, if Romney wins the nomination.
Right now, though, I’d worry more about finishing second than first if I were Gingrich’s campaign strategist. Rick Santorum’s endorsement by the ad hoc congress of family-values activists in Texas yesterday makes the former Senator likely to gather momentum as the conservative consolidation candidate, especially with Republicans sore enough in South Carolina to boo the new eruption of Nasty Newt at what was supposed to be a positive forum yesterday. Until now, Gingrich had almost evenly split half of the evangelical vote in the state with Santorum (25/23) with a lack of any direction from movement leaders. Now that evangelicals have moved as a bloc in favor of Santorum, those numbers will likely change quickly this week.
How worried is Gingrich about this development? Yesterday, his campaign released a statement calling the vote a unanimous endorsement of “Not-Romney,” and chastising Santorum for “misleadling” people over the nature of the endorsement:
150 Christian Leaders Unanimous in Their Support for Not-Romney
Atlanta, GA – Newt 2012 National Co-Chair J.C. Watts released the following statement today reacting to a meeting in Texas of Christian leaders splitting their support between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
“Congratulations to Rick Santorum. It is a very strong sign for the GOP that Gingrich and Santorum were separated by only nine votes on the first ballot cast today. Both candidates have friends in the evangelical community who are committed to helping nominate a conservative. It is clear that 100% of those attending are not for Governor Romney, but in fact are splintered in whether to support Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum. With a great deal of respect, it is misleading for the Santorum campaign to claim they won the endorsement of 150 evangelical leaders.”
Well, no, this was a vote for the endorsement of the entire assembly, not an accidental gathering that just so happened to run into each other coincidentally in Texas over the weekend. The explicit purpose of the assembly was to unite behind one particular candidate to challenge Mitt Romney, not to proportionally allocate endorsements, and both Watts and Gingrich know this perfectly well. That’s why it took three ballots to choose Santorum. To argue otherwise is itself misleading, and yet another whiff of desperation.