South Carolina Primary Fun
On Friday, reading the polls , seeing all the talking of Willard's collapse, and sensing a Gingrich win-- read: a defeat for the Republican Establishment's pick-- GOP kapo Eric Cantor indicated it was time to wrap this crap up and, presumably, fall in line behind Romney. Santorum had a great South Carolina Web ad about falling in line, the best ad last week, if more subtle than the Sheldon Adelson sledgehammers against Bain. Take a look; I don't think Cantor did:
Conservatives love rallying around a victim, and Newt played his exposure as an open-marriage philanderer perfectly, attacking the media with the kind of pomposity and scorn South Carolina Republican males thrive on.
Newt Gingrich heads into South Carolina election day as the clear front runner in the state: he's now polling at 37% to 28% for Mitt Romney, 16% for Rick Santorum, and 14% for Ron Paul.
Gingrich's lead has actually increased in the wake of his ex-wife's controversial interview with ABC. Although one night poll results should always be interpreted with caution, he led the final night of the field period by a 40-26 margin. One thing that continues to work to his advantage are the debates. 60% of primary voters report having watched the one last night, and Gingrich has a 46-23 lead with those folks.
...The skepticism of Republican voters toward the media is helping Gingrich as well. Just 14% of likely voters have a generally favorable opinion of the media, while 77% view it negatively. Gingrich's attacks on the media have clearly played well with the party base.
Gingrich is leading with pretty much every key segment of the Republican electorate. He's up 41-21 on Romney and Santorum with Evangelicals, he has a 52-18 advantage on Romney with Tea Partiers, he leads Santorum 44-21 with 'very conservative' voters with Romney at 20%, and he's up 39-26 with men.
Yes, South Carolina Republican males-- white bigots. On Saturday morning over at Digby's place David Atkins reminded us once again how horribly lame CNN is, noting that they introduced the last debate by calling South Carolina a state "where values matter." That's true, of course, but they didn't describe the values that matter to South Carolina Republicans. Tom Schaller did, in his great book Whistling Past Dixie:
Consider South Carolina, which has opposed or defied almost every beneficent social and political change in American history. To appease South Carolinian slaveholders, Thomas Jefferson removed language condemning slavery from the Declaration of Independence. Four years later, backcountry loyalists in South Carolina helped the British Army recapture the state in 1780 from the patriots. By 1828, Palmetto State native and vice president John C. Calhoun was agitating for state "nullification" of federal powers, generating secessionist calls a full generation before the outbreak of the Civil War.
On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede; four months later Confederate forces in Charleston fired the opening shots of the Civil War on the Union garrison at Fort Sumter, and South Carolina even threatened to secede from the Confederacy because the other southern states would not agree to reopening the slave trade. Soon after the state's chapter of the Ku Klux Klan formed, "red shirt" Democratic rifle clubs used physical intimidation and ballot manipulation to alter results of the 1876 election. In the 1890s, Governor Ben "Pitchfork" Tillman--who earned his nickname by threatening to stab President Grover Cleveland in the ribs with said implement--served two terms as governor before embarking on a twenty-three-year Senate career during which he defended segregation as vigilantly as his fellow Edgefield County native, Strom Thurmond, later did for most of his career.
Well into the twentieth century, South Carolina's black citizens observed the Fourth of July mostly alone because the vast majority of whites refused to, preferring instead to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, May 10. State politicians repeatedly averted their eyes as textile industry executives employed children and quashed attempts by mill workers to organize for fair wages. In 1920, the South Carolina legislature rejected the proposed women's suffrage amendment and took almost a half century finally to ratify it, in 1969. In 1948, the same year the South Carolina legislature declared President Harry Truman's new civil rights commission "un-American," Thurmond's full-throated advocacy of racial segregation as the States' Rights Democratic Party presidential nominee helped him carry four Deep South states. Six years later, the Clarendon County school district--where per-pupil spending on whites was quadruple that for blacks--was pooled with three other districts in a failed defense of the "separate but equal" standard in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. And when Congress passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the law that finally banned the creative and vicious methods used to disfranchise blacks, South Carolina became the first state to challenge its constitutionality. By 1968 Harry Dent, the most legendary of Thurmond's political proteges and a key architect of the "southern strategy," was helping Richard Nixon translate racial antagonisms into crucial Republican votes, a victory in South Carolina, and a ticket to the White House.
By now you know that Romney lost today in South Carolina, a shocking collapse. Newt won 41 counties and Romney won only 5.
Suddenly, Romney’s claim to be the GOP’s inevitable nominee looked dubious. Romney had arrived in South Carolina as the apparent winner of the first two GOP contests and faced an electorate that seemed open to his message that only a Washington outsider could restore free markets and sensible spending.
And yet he was beaten by a man who had been the ultimate Washington insider.
At the same time, the victory in South Carolina seemed to validate Gingrich’s new model for a presidential campaign-- which held that his own strong debate performances could overcome Romney’s edge in advertising and money.
Here, it finally worked.
About two-thirds of South Carolina voters said that the debates-- in which Gingrich blistered his opponents and the moderators-- were an important factor in their decisions.
“The momentum as of tomorrow morning will be pretty decisive,” Gingrich told Fox Business News’s Neil Cavuto in a phone interview from South Carolina Saturday night. He said he looked forward to campaigning in Florida, where the next GOP primary will be held Jan. 31. “In the end, sooner or later, it’s going to become Romney versus Gingrich, and then the natural conservative Republican Party is going to repudiate a Massachusetts moderate whose actual record is, frankly, pretty liberal.”
Across South Carolina on Saturday, voters had said they liked Gingrich’s aggression in debates-- believing it would make him the best Republican to take on President Obama in the fall.
Romney has never served in Congress, having been defeated in his one run for the Senate, when he tried unsuccessfully to run to the left of Teddy Kennedy. Gingrich, on the other hand, led the GOP to some real glory days as he helped them forge a new radical right identity and win the majority. Before being fined for corruption and shamed into resigning, he was even the Speaker. So it's noteworthy that only two members who served with him in the House, corrupt right-wing fanatics Joe Barton (TX) and Jack Kingston (GA), are backing him this year. Some right-wing newcomers have endorsed him, including extremist (and closet queen) Trent Franks (AZ), who originally backed Bachmann but went for the Newtser when she backed out. In all Newt has 9 members of Congress behind him, all racists, bigots and far right fanatics. Romney has 72 members, including 14 senators, including almost all of the closet cases (Aaron Schock, Patrick McHenry, Mark Kirk, Dana Rohrbacher) and, obviously, most of the Republican Mormons (Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz, Jeff Flake, Wally Herger, California swindler Buck McKeon, Mike Simpson and Sen. Orrin Hatch).
All of the self-proclaimed "moderates" flocked to Willard-- like Mary Bono-Mack, Charlie Bass, Nan Hayworth, Robert Dold, Leonard Lance, Judy Biggert, John Duncan, Brian Bilbray, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen-- but so did deranged extremists-teabaggers like Sandy Adams, Steve Womack, Virginia Foxx and Rove protégé Tim Griffin.