Who said there would be no surprises in Nevada? Oh, the caucus results came in largely as expected, with Mitt Romney winning by a 2-1 margin so far in what has to be the slowest caucus count since … well, Iowa, if we mean an accurate count. As I write this, only 71% of precincts have reported after more than 12 hours have passed, with Romney near a majority at 48%, Newt Gingrich at 23%, and Ron Paul close but not threatening at 18%. It’s a second win in a row for Romney, the first winning streak of the nomination sweepstakes:
Declaring victory in Nevada’s Republican presidential caucuses on Saturday, Mitt Romney again turned away from his GOP rivals and toward President Barack Obama.
CNN projected that Mitt Romney will win the Nevada Republican presidential caucuses based on results and entrance polling. …
His victory speech was a one-on-one with Obama.
“This president began his presidency by apologizing for America. He should now be apologizing to America,” Romney told cheering supporters.
The only allusion to opponents Romney made was when he told supporters that he was the only one who could fix the economy, “unlike other people running for president.
None of this was a surprise, either. Romney did the same in New Hampshire and Florida after winning both states, acting as though his nomination was all but assured and playing the role of party leader. Romney now heads to Colorado, where he is expected to do well, and Minnesota, where a low turnout and a non-binding result make it more difficult to see a clear favorite.
The surprises, and the fireworks, came from Newt Gingrich, who called a press conference rather than give a speech, which I watched this morning. It turned into a surprisingly angry, bitter affair, with Gingrich blaming Romney for spreading rumors that he was going to drop out after Nevada, when in fact the speculation started in the press when Gingrich called the unusual press conference. He attempted a little bit of press-baiting, but mostly took every opportunity to vent his loathing at Romney and his campaign, calling him the George Soros choice, pro-abortion, and so on. If people thought that the lack of graciousness after Gingrich’s loss in Florida was a careless mistake, this press conference dispelled that notion and made Gingrich’s speech in Florida look courtly by comparison.
Victor Davis Hanson writes today that Gingrich’s speech was about the only way the candidate could possibly have made a bad night even worse:
But whether he knows it or not, Gingrich is becoming a caricature of petulance: no concession in Nevada, no call to Romney, no awareness that his inability to raise money at levels of a political rival or to match a competing campaign organization is not necessarily unfair. That’s politics, and Gingrich knows it. I don’t understand why he thinks now losing to Romney in 2012 is solely due to Romney’s innate deviousness in a way McCain beating Romney in 2008 was not — given that Romney was about the same in both 2008 and 2012. Gingrich seems oblivious to the fact that McCain’s style and history gave him advantages over Romney’s money and hardball in ways Gingrich’s own proven liabilities apparently do not.
Gingrich should carefully play a tape of his post–Nevada caucus performance, and then he would quickly grasp that it was little more than a litany of excuses, whining, and accusations — characterized by stream-of-conscious confessionals and rambling repetitions. And, I think, will hurt him more than anything yet in the campaign.
Verdict? Gingrich is going to have to stop the accusations now, turn attention away from himself, stop complaining about the mechanics of the race, stick with critiquing Obama, and at least seem a good sport when he loses.
Guy Benson attended the press conference and ended up asking the only substantive question of the evening — which provided the one good moment of the press conference for Gingrich:
In lieu of an election night party, Newt Gingrich opted for a lengthy press conference, at which he was peppered with process questions about his horserace with Romney. He came off as whiny and aggrieved, at one point denying that Romney was “in his head.” During roughly 30 minutes of questioning, Gingrich fielded only one policy question (which came from yours truly, regarding “Catholic” Nancy Pelosi’s professed support for President Obama’s egregious First Amendment violation on religious liberty and Obamacare). As expected, Newt refused to drop out and vowed to march on to the convention, predicting that he’d be “at parity” with Romney by the end of the Texas primary in early April. This is all part of Team Newt’s new delegate-centered strategy moving forward. He also stated that he plans to adopt a different approach in handling Romney at their next debate, which is slated for February 22nd in Arizona. He said that he lost the Florida debates because he was caught off guard and rendered speechless by Romney’s “fundamental dishonesty.”…
Our own Kevin Glass tweets that Charles Krauthammer said on Fox that Newt’s response to my question during the Q&A session was the high point of an otherwise low evening for the former Speaker.
Like Hanson, I’m not sure why Gingrich keeps complaining about being outspent 5-1 as a reason for losing. Barack Obama won’t build a billion-dollar campaign, but given Gingrich’s fundraising performance in the primaries, Gingrich would be lucky to only have a 5-1 disadvantage in a general election. If Gingrich can’t beat Romney under those circumstances, how would he beat Obama? It won’t be through “Lincoln-Douglas-style debates,” or any debates in which if Obama gives what Gingrich thinks are “fundamentally dishonest” answers, which apparently are Kryptonite, debate-wise.
Clearly, this race has become personal for Gingrich. That may be good for the candidate, but is it good for the Republican Party? Is it good for conservatives? CNN’s Candy Crowley interviewed Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and FreedomWorks founder Dick Armey today, and both agreed that Gingrich’s personal attacks don’t help anyone — and as Armey said, they don’t even help Gingrich:
Freedom Works chairman and former Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) blasted Newt Gingrich for his continued tough attacks on Mitt Romney saying Gingrich was carrying out a vendetta against the Republican frontrunner.
Armey said that Gingrich’s criticisms of Romney were not helpful for either the GOP in November or Gingrich’s own campaign during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “I feel bad for him. I think he’s digressed into a state of taking a second-rate campaign and turning it into a first-rate vendetta,” said Armey. …
In a speech to his supporters after his second place finish in Nevada’s GOP caucuses Saturday night, Gingrich kept up the assault, saying that he had “never had a person next to me in a civil engagement be as substantially dishonest as he was,” in reference to Romney’s performance in an earlier debate.
“I thought that last night was really [sad] for him,” said Armey about Gingrich’s Saturday speech. “Quite frankly again so much of Newt’s whole life is overstated, he overstates the case in such a hyperbolic fashion, it just looks vindictive.”
Here’s the interview from this morning’s State of the Union. The above exchange starts at the 7:45 mark, but the entire segment is worth its ten minutes, especially where Crowley points to Romney’s improving numbers among “very conservative” voters and Armey responds that he’s concentrating on House and Senate races as the true path to conservative reform.