Thursday, January 19, 2012

South Carolina Debate

I did a long write-up on the debate over at Plum Line, so I'll mostly just send you there. If you missed it, but enjoy presidential debates in general, I'll recommend this one: started with a bang, and rarely let up.

As I said over there, how it will affect GOP voters in the short run depends mostly on what spin is accepted within the GOP partisan press; there's certainly plenty of great clips to support virtually any interpretation. Beyond that, I'm very curious about how Rick Santorum's attacks, especially his quite vicious and personal attacks on Newt, played to conservative audiences. It played really well to me, and in my view any conservative should buy the idea that Newt absolutely cannot be trusted, but I'll certainly confess that I'm not exactly neutral on that subject.

And I'll also repeat what I said over there about John King: he totally, totally screwed up the "open marriage" question. Probably his best bet was to just leave it alone, but if he really wanted to press it he could have framed it better in lots of different ways. All that said: don't assume that five good minutes from Newt makes the issue go away. Among other things, Jay Leno and the rest of that gang aren't going to lay off just because a partisan crowd fell for a cheap rhetorical trick. Don't forget, too, that his marriage record is only one of Newt's many, many, many vulnerabilities. I wouldn't want to guess how it affects him in South Carolina in the short term, but in the long term very few Republican politicians or operatives really want to spend all summer and fall defending Newt's personal life.


  1. As I've said many times before, I have trouble imagining any scenario in which Mitt loses the nomination, even though he could lose South Carolina. But the tax-return thing has, for the first time, led me to wonder about the intriguing possibility of what would happen if some major Romney scandal were to emerge. What would the party do? What would the voters do? I assume it would throw everything into chaos--which is part of why it would have to be something really disqualifying. Merely hurting his image isn't enough. I've long thought that if there were any real skeletons in Romney's closet, they'd have been revealed long ago, but you never know.

    1. I hope he releases the tax returns very soon. I wonder what's going to take a bigger hit--Mitt's clean guy image, or the Republican tax plans? There are a lot of tax issues this year, the SS tax cut extension being the least controversial. There is a question of corporate profit repatriation (here) and reforming the tax code before the Bush tax cuts expire (here).

  2. To the moral warriors, Newt will always have at least half-a-scalp, Clinton's.

    What's Santorum got? Positions.

    1. It's not the most important point, but I'll join in the John King-bashing. To quote myself, King "put the cherry on top of a triple-scoop-sundae-with-everything media feeding frenzy that completely missed the point of the real story."*

      The real story being the one John Richardson broke in Esquire in 2010---that Marianne Gingrich, Newt's closest political adviser for much of the 1980s and 90s, is horrified at the prospect of him getting anywhere near the Oval Office.


  3. I'm not so sure Romney's slam on Gingrich about working with Reagan is going to play as devastatingly as you seem to feel. I didn't even notice it while I was watching/chatting (not totally rapt attention, conceded). Was it a big applause line for Mitt?

    But while it's true on the substance, I wonder if it plays. I don't feel today's Republican party has a particularly realistic memory of the actual Reagan presidency. By the same token, I'm not sure they will want to connect the truly nutty things Newt did as speaker to modern-day "reality". And now I turn the balance of my time over to political commentator and FOX News military analyst Col. Nathan Jessup, USMC (ret.)

    Jessup: Newt is still the guy these voters WANT on that wall.. he's the guy those voters NEED on that wall!

    (The colonel is placed under arrest for his actions at Gitmo, and led from the studio.)


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