Political events have their build-ups and let downs but in South Carolina this whirlwind end to the campaign is one for the record books. Here is a look back on the five most controversial, confusing or just plain ridiculous happenings over the last five days in Charleston.
5. Perry- Exes Live In Texas
“We are in this to win! Just wait till’ we are back here in January!” so said Rick Perry, announcing his candidacy in South Carolina some eight months ago. The firebrand Governor was a welcome addition to the race, hailed as a savior well before his credentials were vetted. Perry was vaulted to the top of the pack and enjoyed approval ratings of over 70% with the base in the first week of his candidacy. Over the (mostly painful) next five months we saw that Perry was a bit too big for his britches. Many notable debate flops, odd campaign speeches and general confusion engulfed a slowly plummeting campaign. Two days ago, Perry dropped out, limping back to Austin without finishing the race.
4. Ex-Wives Can Be Troublesome
Newt found himself in a predictable situation. Everyone knows about Newt’s infidelities and the hypocrisy of impeaching the President for the same behavior. What we all did not expect was the painful revelations that came with the infidelity and severely worse, the media’s seizing on the topic on the eve of the South Carolina contest. Newt eventually finishes with the last laugh. The former speaker masterfully played off John Kings first question and whiplashed the argument back at the Media, seizing on the audiences and the American public’s natural distain for electioneering by the media.
Winner: Newt, but with plenty of energy expended.
3. CNN Debate… that was A DEBATE.
The debate was started by Newts opening KO, and kept rolling in knockout fashion. The idea that less is more rang true in this first four person debate. The candidates all got plenty of time in the limelight, each was able to compose well rounded answers and construct multiple counterpoints to a variety of attacks. Each candidate went after the others in a feisty, rough-and- tumble way that left everyone bruised but for the better. Eventually though, the focus of the debate was bashing Obama and the contenders threw these punches the hardest. At the end, this debate won over viewers and solidified bases, while remaining entertaining. Refreshing.
After the Fox News debate on Monday, the race card was in full swipe. Newt got the brunt of the charges for two comments.
- Food Stamp President- Newt used the term to describe Obamas’ doubling of the food stamp recipients in America since he took office. Former President Jimmy Carter chimed in and called the comment ‘subtly racist.’ In an act of extreme delusion, much of Tuesdays Liberal Media coverage focused on the sources of Newts “racism” and weather the comment was factual. Meanwhile, J.C. watts was scratching his head, pointing out “Hey, there are more white people on food stamps than Black people.”
- ‘Juan’- Newt referred to his longtime professional friend by his first name in a heated moment in the debate. No big deal, right? Not to the sensitive as tissue paper MSNBC who somehow found subtle racism in the remark. Chris Mathews decided to say this about the exchange, “That use of the name ‘Juan,’ the way he does it. You can’t argue these things. You either see it or you don’t. It’s just the way he did that. I sensed a little applause when he said ‘Let me help you,’ when he answered the Juan question. It’s in the eye of the beholder. And, by the way, calling someone a racist is the worst way to get them to stop being a racist because everyone gets defensive…So it’s stupid to say it but, if you notice it, you sort of ought to blow the whistle. Because there is a dog whistle going on here in a lot of cases, and you have to deal with it.”Cain/Colbert Rally
1. Cain/Colbert Rally
Nothing more needs to be said.
Last night after a live interview with Fox News from their makeshift headquarters in the Marriott in Charleston, Senator Santorum stepped off the podium and made a case for that “everyman” image his campaign has so artfully crafted. Santorum walked into the “Blogger Bash,” sat down in a room half full of (mostly) conservative bloggers, took a deep breath and helped himself to a beer and some pizza.
The winner of the Iowa caucus, dressed in a sweater vest with his name embroidered on it, drank a Blue Moon and ate Mushroom Pizza. He chatted casually with the elated bloggers, looking increasingly tired and at the very end understandably, exhausted. A rare, charming moment that reminds all of us that outside of the makeup & lights, tour buses and neon debate podiums these guys are people too. On the twilight eve of the election Santorum proves an everyman indeed.
The Southern Republican Leadership Conference was a star studded event on the level of CPAC or the RNC convention. Three Presidential candidates, the RNC Chairman, senators, ambassadors, pundits and the lot of republican establishment strategists milling about making things happen.
The Republican Party got some ‘splainin to do. An event that seemed to be a perfectly timed and prominently stacked with VIP’s was painfully lacking the one element that makes the event worthwhile. There were never more than 100 people in the audience at any time. The empty auditorium was made even emptier by the big personalities that occupied the stage. Ron Paul, Fred Thompson, S.E. Cupp, Rick Santorum all spoke into a (mostly) empty auditorium. The last four hours of the event, only the CSPAN cameras met the various respected panels.
So what happened? The SLRC was a victim of bad planning, bad timing and horrible event location selection. The basketball arena might sound like a great place to grandstand but with a poorly attended event, the large arena simply highlights the lack of interest in your message. The convention was held on Thursday and Friday during the days. Republican’s historically have jobs and this makes it difficult for them to jet off to Charleston en mass, particularly in a recession.
The timing of the event to coincide with the S.C. Primary was convenient, however the media was mostly absent, minus the radio row of conservative bloggers and CSPAN. Most egregiously of all Santorum, Paul and Newt were all scheduled to speak. Paul and Santorum took valuable divergence from their campaigns to stop in to the mostly empty event. Newt ended up cancelling on behalf of poor attendance, a move that gained national headlines and was perhaps the height of the humiliation.
The failure of the event was not inevitable though. A competent team can get Republicans together in the South under any conditions. As proved by the packed out Tea Party Patriots event Friday night. The Colbert/ Herman Cain rally garnered over a thousand people, and it was just one block down the street! I personally spoke to two Occupiers who had been credentialed and were planning on occupying the event, only to decide it wasn’t worth it because “no one was there anyway.” I guess there is a silver lining.
Perry dropped out and endorsed Gingrich. While the endorsement certainly sparked the interest of the Press, just narrowing the field probably gave Gingrich a boost. Gingrich stormed the debate with a take-no-prisoners attitude. Palin threw a back-handed endorsement at Gingrich. Romney underperformed on stage. But even before all these events, Rasmussen already had Gingrich pulling ahead; which leads me to believe that he tipped even earlier. Often it takes a day or two for the polls to catch up with facts.
Some pundits like to imply Gingrich’s rise comes from a media conspiracy. If Romney won South Carolina easily, it leaves little doubt on who the nominee will be. Not much journalistic frenzy with that story. Another theory was that Southerners really want to vote for a Southerner. Or you can chalk up the surge to an “Anyone But Romney” mentality in the Republican party.
It could be any of these things. It could also be a serious decision on the part of the voters that after the Monday debate, a stronger candidate should be chosen. And that’s when Newt caught the trend. I won’t go so far as to say the majority of conservatives think Gingrich can beat Obama, but I do think they want someone with balls. Right now, Newt is only the candidate who proved his are made of steel.
With only hours separating South Carolina from the beginning of the Primary, candidates courted Charleston like the prettiest girl at the dance. Every single presidential hopeful, and even the less hopeful, came to the Holy City and engaged local voters in a spectacular rush of politics that won’t happen again for 4 years. Many of the candidates addressed SRLC in the morning and then went on to run rallies and events across the city.
Ron Paul, with the lightest local schedule, spent time with students at the College of Charleston, rallying to his most vocal demographic. Fans of Paul, while not seeing much of their Congressman later in the day, still made their support heard at other candidates’ events.
The same college hosted a massive event starring Stephen Colbert who was not allowed on the South Carolina ballot. He paired with Herman Cain, who while no longer running, remains on the ballot. Colbert urged students to vote from Cain in the Primary tomorrow. Cain also appeared later at a Tea Party event urging voters to change their government from the outside.
Romney held a rally in Northern Charleston, filling in the room with Press while he received endorsements from both Governor Nikki Haley from South Carolina and Governor Bob McDonnell from Virginia.
Santorum spent time with the Citadel cadets in Charleston, the same school he will use as his “victory party” headquarters tomorrow night.
Gingrich had the most interesting day out of all the candidates. His schedule put him in for multiple events across Charleston but his actual appearances varied significantly. His staff cancelled a rally at the College of Charleston due to low attendance. He also canceled an event in the same building as the Romney Rally. His final appearance happed at the USS Yorktown followed by a book signing.
Romney needs to win back some serious points today. His inevitable victory has been overshadowed by Newt’s rising poll numbers. Now, Romney needs to proactively gain back his lead if he wants to win South Carolina.
There a few things Romney can do to catapult himself back into place in time for Saturday. First, he needs to sound confident. He needs to make the numbers lie. He needs to look so certain that no one dares question him. He needs to sooth his supporters and put on a bold face to the press. He must look unshaken.
Second, he needs to have some prepared answers. Yesterday, he appeared to be taken off-guard on questions like publicizing his taxes. Instead, he needs to know his weakness and have responses ready to go. The press and his opponents will continue to try and exploit Romney’s faults, so he needs to have a plan in place on how to handle them.
Third, he needs to get aggressive. The nice guy act worked in the beginning, but now is time to pull out the big guns. I’m not suggesting that Romney stoop to mudslinging, that approach could backfire. Instead, he needs position himself as a candidate who has a strong stance on Southern values (religion, family, guns, the military, etc.).
And finally Romney needs to be transparent. Or at least create the appearance of transparency. During the debate, Romney looked like he had something to hide. Instead he must disclose whatever the public wants to know or at least look willing to disclose all his secrets.
“Two words; Loved, It.”
So said former Presidential candidate Herman Cain in response to Newt Gingrich’s defense of his personal life in last night’s CNN debate. John King, who moderated the debate, led off with a question about the infamous ABC News story concerning Newt’s infidelity. Newt pounced on the ’appalling’ practice of beginning a Presidential Debate with such a question to thunderous applause. But the audience was not the only ones to show support for the former speaker. TIR caught up with Herman Cain and Fred Thompson today to ask their opinions of the ‘personal attack’ strategy of the media.
Both Thompson and Cain were items of intense media scrutiny when they were seeking the office of the Presidency in ’08 and ’12 respectively. Both have also been scrutinized for marital infidelity. Cain eventually dropped out of the race on account of the pressure from multiple women claiming multiple affairs with the former Godfathers CEO. Thompson filed for divorce with his first wife citing “cruel and inhumane treatment”, a topic the media seized upon.
In what seemed to be a devastating blow to the former speaker at the time, the ABC News interview fell flat, not only in ratings but also in effect. As of today, the Gingrich campaign is up by three to five points among male S.C. voters and his female base has been unaffected.