Newt Gingrich: now the frontrunner? Photocredit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iowapolitics/510349178/sizes/z/in/photostream/
The four remaining candidates in the GOP race for presidential candidate debated in South Carolina in Charleston, before the all-important primary on Saturday. Gaffe-prone Texas Governor Rick Perry has pulled out, leaving Newt Gingrich, whom Perry endorses; Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. The final results of the Iowa caucases showed a split between Romney and Santorum, because of “missing data”, according to the BBC.
The debate was “electric”, said The Washington Post, and centred on the thorny issue of Mitt Romney’s tax returns, and whether he would release 12 years of them. He wouldn’t apologize for his success: He’s worth £130 million, reported the BBC; Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, has already released his returns. Romney tried to downplay accusations of “slashing jobs” whilst he was at Bain Capital.
Other points of debate were healthcare, and the reform law; though no mention of foreign policy, said Chris Cilizza on The Washington Post - which is a shame, when you consider that “being commander-in-chief means more than simply trying to turn the country’s economy around.” He named Santorum a “winner”, as well as Gingrich; “losers” were Ron Paul, because he was left out of the debate all the time, and Romney (because of his taxes.) Commentators are divided as to who’s now more likely to win the nomination, but it seems to be between Romney and Gingrich; Santorum’s a strong one though, and one musn’t forget about Ron Paul.
“He was asking to have an open marriage and I refused,” said the former Mrs Gingrich, quoted on the BBC.
Airing dirty laundry. There were some untoward revelations though: Gingrich’s ex-wife revealed, on ABC News’ Nightline programme, that Gingrich wanted an open marriage – and asked her to “share him with Callista Bisek” (whom he later married.) Gingrich, who denied the story, said The Washington Post, said it was “ ‘depiscable’” of the media to bring up the question about his marriage, as well as “ ‘destructive, vicious, negative.’”
So will it affect Gingrich? It was a day “full of twists and turns,” said the BBC’s Paul Adams. Gingrich “thundered with anger” after he was asked about his ex-wife’s claims – though, said Maggie Haberman on Politico, he certainly came “prepared” for the question. Gingrich is currently enjoying “a late surge in the polls” – but, in a conservate state like South Carolina, stories about sexual peccadilloes won’t be very helpful. The debate was “noisy”; if Romney wins, as is likely, “his eventual nomination will look more certain than ever.”
Don’t forget Ron Paul! But, said Mark Mardell, also on the BBC, there was a “buzz” around Ron Paul. He’s tailoring his message to college students, with promises of scaling back debt and “big government.” He “combines hard right economic policy with some social concerns more often found on the left” – for instance, opposing the Iraq war. Whilst this may appeal to the young, it might not to older voters. Still, it’s unlikely that Paul will win the nomination – though “he could still stand as an independent.” Ron Paul mostly felt left out, although he did, said The Washington Post, have “a particularly strong moment” when he noted that he’d always opposed the Stop Online Piracy Act.
What about Santorum? He was actually the winner on points, said Maggie Haberman – but “Alas, debates are not won on points.” It was, however, his “best debate of the season.” He also made the point that Gingrich is “unreliable.” Santorum tried to show himself as “the only true conservative in the race.” He said his rivals were “ ‘playing footsie with the left,’” and attacked Gingrich for having “big ideas.”
No, Gingrich is your man! John Cassidy in his New Yorker blog said that the contest now looked like a “long, drawn out slugfest between Mitt and Newt, with Ron Paul sitting in the peanut gallery.” Gingrich’s blast at the media was his “standard routine when facing scrutiny.” It certainly stunned the moderator, John King, who let him dismiss the allegations as “unfounded.” The “rest of the debate was a bit beside the point.” Mitt was “flustered”; Santorum “scored some points” over Romney and Gingrich; Gingrich himself talked of “prosaic local matters,” whilst Paul said he wouldn’t release his tax returns because he was so poor. But three different polls have shown Gingrich “surging past Mitt.” And it looks like even the debate about his ex-wife won’t stop the rush: “don’t underestimate Newt.” Sure, “he might be a blowhard, a man of questionable morals, a corporate tool, and a race baiter, but he can handle himself in a street fight.”