Less than a week after ABC released (and Drudge essentially spoiled) the story that we were told could “end [Newt Gingrich’s] career,” the former Speaker came from behind to win the South Carolina primary by a startling 13%. Not only did South Carolina voters ignore the latest unverifiable mainstream media report on the private life of a Republican candidate–a report that was specifically timed to inflict maximum damage–many of them likely voted for Gingrich to spite the MSM. Exit polling suggests that Newt’s entire margin of victory was comprised of South Carolinians who decided on their candidate near or on primary day, i.e. after ABC’s story had leaked. Those who decided after the CNN debate in which Gingrich embarrassed CNN’s John King for his liberal bias voted solidly for Newt.
Conventional wisdom is that debates don’t decide nominations, but that notion is as antiquated as the paper route. This is, after all, the media age. It’s the era of YouTube, Twitter, and the 24-hour news network. Fear the candidate who can beat the media at their own game, and right now, that candidate is Newt Gingrich.
Their imperfect track-records aside, the former speaker has been able to distinguish himself from Governor Romney in two crucial ways. The first difference is in who, or what, they are campaigning against. The foundation of Mitt Romney’s campaign is keeping a narrow focus on Barack Obama. This isn’t a bad strategy, per se, but it doesn’t comprehensively address the problems we are facing as a society. After all, Barack Obama is a product of the American left. He was raised in academia, sold to us by Hollywood, and elected by the mainstream media. The President is the tip of the iceberg, and the Republican candidate should understand that Obama is a symptom of what ails us, not the cause.
Newt has decided to run a broader campaign, addressing crony capitalism at length and waging war against Obama’s palace guards in the mainstream media. Needless to say, the media criticism in particular has resonated with South Carolina voters:
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Yesterday Gingrich spoke out, yet again, against the philosophies and influence of Saul Alinsky, the patron saint of postmodern leftism. This isn’t merely how the GOP nominee should campaign, it’s also how he should govern if elected. In the battle for America’s future, our primary adversary isn’t the man in the White House, it’s the ideas and values that put him there.
Another reality in the media age is that the most articulate candidate will have the best chance to succeed. In the past couple debates, Mitt Romney has stumbled when backed into a corner on relatively minor issues such as the request to release his tax returns. Newt, on the other hand, has taken gotcha questions and skillfully and confidently rebutted them.
This is not to say Mitt hasn’t been a competent debater. He most certainly has been. But recently, Newt has presented himself as the clearer thinker. His rhetoric can soar–as Obama’s did in 2008–and in the media age, that may be what voters care about most.
The irony is, of course, that the principal beneficiaries of Gingrich winning South Carolina in such convincing fashion are the media (both old and new), because nothing boosts ratings and page views like a horse-race.
So, now we look to Florida, and that should be another wild ride. The polling there has been, for lack of a better term, schizophrenic. Newt had a monster advantage over Mitt a few weeks ago, then Romney erased that and is currently way out in front. Can Newt come back again again after blowing a big lead already? It seems like the Sunshine State is susceptible to swings in momentum, and Newt has all of it right now.