COMBAT IN SOUTH CAROLINA – AT 8:08 A.M. ET: South Carolina votes in four days. Last night the remaining five GOP presidential contenders debated, the others having been voted off the island.
The general consensus is that no one had a disaster last night, with the possible exception of Ron Paul, who faced ridicule from the audience, appropriately, over his far-left views on foreign policy.
If there was a winner, though, it had to be Newt Gingrich, who had his best night, even scoring a standing ovation from the audience at one point. From the Daily Caller:
If former House Speaker Newt Gingrich does the impossible and somehow defeats Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination, analysts will look back and say the upset was sparked Monday night at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
The knowledgeable, rhetorically gifted Newt Gingrich conservatives love showed up at the Fox News/Wall Street Journal debate and shook the house. Instead of shining by attacking Romney, he thrived by battling his old antagonists: the “elite” media and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Asked by debate co-moderator Juan Williams whether he could understand why his comments that “black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps” and that “poor kids lack a strong work ethnic” and perhaps should “work as janitors in their schools” were insulting to Americans — especially African-Americans — Gingrich dismissed the notion out of hand.
“No, I don’t see that,” he said bluntly to wild applause.
Gingrich also shined by countering Ron Paul’s “golden rule” foreign policy.
“My point is that if another country does to us what we do to others, we aren’t going to like it very much. So I would say maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in foreign policy,” Paul explained to a not-very-receptive crowd. “We endlessly bomb these other countries and then we wonder why they get upset with us?”
“Bin Laden plotted deliberately bombing American embassies,” Gingrich countered, “bombing the U.S.S. Cole, and killing 3,100 Americans, and his only regret was he didn’t kill more. Now, he’s not a Chinese dissident. You know, the analogy Congressman Paul used was utterly irrational: A Chinese dissident who comes here seeking freedom is not the same as a terrorist who goes to Pakistan seeking asylum.”
Gingrich then delivered a killer rhetorical blow.
“South Carolina in the Revolutionary War had a young 13-year old named Andrew Jackson. He was sabered by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life. Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear cut idea about America’s enemies: kill them,” Gingrich declared to yet more wild applause.
Gingrich’s performance was epic. It very well may have been the single best performance during any debate in the current cycle.
COMMENT: Yes, it was a great performance. Gingrich is a superb debater. The question is whether the performance turns into votes. He's given fine debate performances before, but voters understand that debates will play only a limited role in the national campaign against Obama.
Romney, the frontrunner, held his own last night. South Carolina is not a natural fit for him, but he is leading in all the polls there.
We'll know whether Gingrich upsets Romney in South Carolina on Saturday night.
January 17, 2012