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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

Topic: Gingrich

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January 25, 2012 at 2:25 PM

Why big media was the biggest loser in South Carolina

From the opening minutes of the CNN Southern Republican Debate in Charleston, SC on Thursday, the tone was combative. But it wasn’t the candidates going after each other.

CNN moderator John King opened by asking candidate Newt Gingrich to address allegations of infidelity made by his former wife in an interview with ABC News.

Rather than respond to the allegations, Gingrich unleashed an angry tirade on King, and the rest of the “elite media,” to a rousing applause from the audience.

“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.” Gingrich said, leaving the CNN anchor stammering to defend himself.

Whether or not it was the right choice of opening question, one thing is clear: in the debate, as in the campaign as a whole, slamming the media is a sure way to win points with voters.

Reporters mob Rick Santorum in the Spin Room after the CNN Southern Republican Debate

Over the course of our week in South Carolina, I heard numerous references to the ‘elite’ or ‘liberal’ media from all four of the candidates.

Which makes sense. It’s a brilliant tactic, which allows the candidate to paint them selves as an underdog in touch with the common folk, who can’t get the tough truths they’re delivering out to more potential supporters because they’re being censored and attacked by a biased media machine.


Comments | Topics: CNN, debate, elite media

January 24, 2012 at 2:30 PM

Courting, wooing and winning South Carolina

Jim Griffin, of Greenville, said that he wanted to see Gingrich up close and shake his hand.

“You can’t grow a relationship unless you come into the presence of the one you love,” exhorted Pastor Charles Jackson, at Brookland Baptist, where we attended church on Sunday morning before heading home to Seattle. The pastor was using a metaphor to talk about humanity’s relationship with God, and the necessity of nearness in building and sustaining real community.

But the metaphor also spoke to how Newt Gingrich won over South Carolina this past week. He came down into the presence of South Carolinians. And he wooed them.

A native son of the South, from Georgia, Gingrich seemed to know that he had to court its voters. And woo he did, crisscrossing the state and being seen with and seeing ordinary people.


Comments | Topics: campaign, events, Gingrich

January 23, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Super PACs, Newt, and $5 Million More [updated with transcript]

Newt Gingrich prepares to deliver his victory speech in Columbia, SC on Saturday night.

Updated with full transcript.

On the night of the South Carolina primary, as Newt Gingrich was giving his victory speech at a downtown hotel in the state’s capital city, Columbia, Rick Tyler walked into the lobby of the hotel in which I was staying. It’s not a fancy hotel so I was a bit surprised.

Tyler heads the Gingrich-supporting Super PAC, Winning Our Future.

As Tyler walked past I said loudly that I had just watched him on MSNBC discussing Gingrich’s surprising win. He stopped and came over. I introduced myself and we talked for a few minutes. He was heading up to his room to get his bags en route to leaving for Florida, the next state in the primary race.

I asked if he would do an interview. He agreed. He said some interesting and surprising things.

That evening with the help of UW Election Eye colleagues Alex Stonehill and Anita Verna Crofts, we posted a video of a short portion of that interview here. But there was much more than those 5 minutes, and below is the audio of the full interview. The full transcript will be posted tomorrow.

Tyler’s words are particularly meaningful at this exact moment.

Presidential Super PACs are organizations that support specific political candidates and run advertising in support of them or against opponents, but are legally bound to not communicate with the candidates or their campaigns. What makes Super PACs so important, in the words of, is that they “may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.”

Unlimited sums.

Today, for example, Newt Gingrich’s super PAC received a $5 million commitment from one person. This is the second $5 million commitment from the same married couple in the last three weeks for Gingrich’s super PAC, Winning Our Future. Tyler decides how this money is used.

In Iowa, Mitt Romney’s Super PAC — known as Restore Our Future — spent $3.4 million, most of it in negative ads targeting Gingrich, while Winning Our Future spent $700,000. This was a 5-to-1 margin on Romney’s behalf; Romney nearly won the Iowa caucuses, while Gingrich finished a distant fourth. Romney then coasted to victory in New Hampshire, with Gingrich finishing fifth.

But in South Carolina, Winning Our Future had the money to create and promote a 28-minute documentary-style film critical of Romney’s work at Bain Capital. The two candidates’ super PACs were nearly even in dollars spent in the Palmetto State.

With this as a backdrop, coupled with some defining debate performances for Gingrich (effective) and Romney (stumbling), Gingrich rallied for a 12-point defeat of Romney in South Carolina. The new infusion of money may allow the Gingrich campaign to run even with Romney’s super PAC in Florida.

Super PACs have super impact, bottom line.


Comments | Topics: Adelson, Election 2012, Gingrich

January 22, 2012 at 3:05 PM

Much ado about Newt

COLUMBIA– Newt Gingrich’s election party at the Hilton hotel radiated with literal heat and positive energy. Fans, volunteers and reporters stood shoulder to shoulder, singing along to Journey and Springsteen and periodically breaking out into chants of “Newt! Newt! Newt!” Gingrich’s long time supporters couldn’t contain their excitement, calling his sweeping victory absolutely “surreal.”

Here are a few snapshots:

“South Carolina saved America,” announced a very emotional Barbara Marks. Newt’s victory bordered on a religious experience for the Laughlin, Nevada resident. She thanked the Palmetto state voters and Rick Perry–calling him a true “gentleman” for dropping out in time.

“With God’s help, we’re going all the way,” she said, teary-eyed. “And we will make it.”


Comments | Topics: campaign, conservatives, Gingrich

January 22, 2012 at 12:58 PM

The "evangelical vote" diverse, but united on social issues

Evangelical literature at the Personhood USA forum in Greenville, SC, last week, where candidates gathered to establish their credentials on conservative social issues (Alex Stonehill/UW Election Eye)

COLUMBIA — Newt Gingrich’s dramatic come-from-behind victory in South Carolina last night was driven by a lot of factors. But one of the most important was the “evangelical vote,” which went for Gingrich two-for-one over Mitt Romney.

Evangelicals are a still a potent political force in American politics, if Saturday’s primary was any indication. They compose some 65 percent of the electorate in South Carolina, and they seemed to have rallied behind Gingrich following Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s endorsement of him on Thursday.

But just who are this oft-cited chunk of South Carolinians who self-identify as evangelicals?

They’re people like Matthew Saxon, 27, a first-year M.Div. student at Columbia International University, a conservative ecumenical seminary based in Columbia. He attends Shandon Baptist Church, also in Columbia, where he teaches Sunday school.

Saxon’s a general manager at a branch of a local Southwestern-themed-fast-food chain, Moe’s, located near the University of South Carolina’s campus near downtown. He’s married and has two young kids.

And he’s frustrated.


Comments | Topics: Christian Coalition, Christian evangelicals, conservatives

January 21, 2012 at 11:46 PM

Gingrich surges to upset victory in South Carolina primary

Newt Gingrich won a surprising victory in the South Carolina primary last night, beating out frontrunner Mitt Romney with 40% of the vote, to Romney’s 27% As soon as the polls closed at 7pm Eastern time, local stations began reporting the dramatic victory based on exit poll data, catching even the supporters at Gingrich’s after-party by…


Comments | Topics: Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich

January 21, 2012 at 8:29 AM

The coronation is on hold

GREENVILLE– Like two prizefighters, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich circled each other warily on primary day in upcountry of South Carolina.

Wiithin 15 minutes of each other, the two candidates did meet and greets at Tommy’s Country Ham House. They shook hands, their wives joined them, and they fired up supporters.  Their fans returned the favors.

Both candidates were scheduled for 10:45 at Tommy’s, and I wondered if one would blink and arrive earlier. Yes, one did.

continued below…

Photos by A.V. Crofts



Comments | Topics: Election 2012, Gingrich, Jon Huntsman

January 20, 2012 at 10:45 AM

The Spin Room

CHARLESTON — The Spin Room is the place that presidential candidates send their supporters and surrogates to unabashedly advocate on their behalf after presidential debates. Also in the room are pundits who have no candidate affiliation but are experts on certain matters. It’s called the Spin Room because each person puts forward their perspective —…


Comments | Topics: CNN, debate, Gingrich

January 20, 2012 at 8:47 AM

Inside the "Fight for the South" Debate

Inside the North Charleston Coliseum, facing the stage.

CHARLESTON – I thought I knew what to expect when I attended my first nationally televised debate last night, but I was wrong.

Arriving at the North Charleston Coliseum, Plan A for the UWElectionEye team was to go into the press entrance, where we thought our credentials for the event awaited us. Nope.  Plan B got us into the debate hall with voters and the candidates. Not bad at all.

We found the closest nose-bleed seats we could find, only to see that a building beam blocked the whole stage; that’s why they’d been left empty. So we moved up to an even higher location that was two rows from the back, which gave us a view of the whole spectacle before us.


Comments | Topics: charleston, CNN, debate

January 17, 2012 at 1:00 PM

New normals

COLUMBIA– In Sunday service at First Baptist Church, the pastor focused on the value of fasting — that is, abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. This idea struck me as having broader applicability.

All of us, for various reasons, abstain from certain things in life. We choose to go without or deprive ourselves for what we believe are good reasons.

For example, I am a Type I Diabetic. As a result, I try to pass on sweets as much as possible. I abstain to reach my goal of good health.

My decisions to abstain from certain things have created certain norms for me. A distinct normal, if you will.

Being on this trip and covering the primaries has created a new normal for me. I abstain from being my somewhat more introverted self to make myself talk to complete strangers about their lives, politics, and often, religion.

Candidates and their families abstain too. They create a new normal to reach their goals.


Comments | Topics: church, First Baptist, Gingrich