(Providence, Rhode Island) – After having been in Iowa and New Hampshire, it seems like a big letdown for me not to be in South Carolina this weekend. However, I have been watching all the primary coverage on television and following along on the Internet. Here are some thoughts:
“The Newt-ron Bomb!” – I have said it before; but, in the political world, Newt is the proverbial cat with nine lives. Most people quit politics after they lose once, but this guy is like the boxer who gets up swinging after being knocked out. I thought Richard Nixon had cornered the market on political resurrection, but Gingrich may be the all-time champ in that regard. He was twice defeated before winning a seat in Congress, then was chased out by his own party after being Speaker for four years. He’s still standing.
“Senator, I Knew Jack Kennedy!” – We all remember that famous thrashing of Senator Dan Quayle by Senator Lloyd Bentsen during the 1988 Vice-presidential debate. The truth is, that was a very well-rehearsed line, practiced for an anticipated remark. The same goes for Newt Gingrich’s pummeling of CNN’s John King when King asked about Gingrich’s extramarital affairs. Newt knew the question was coming – though I think he was genuinely surprised it came first – and his hitting John King like a piñata was planned, rehearsed and calculated. There was nothing spontaneous about it, though all good political theatre looks spontaneous!
“Abysmal Polling” – On the heels of the New Hampshire primary, most polls in South Carolina had Romney ahead by double digits, with Gingrich narrowing the gap in the waning days. The fact that Gingrich won by 12 points is stunning. Most of the time, the polling is pretty much on the money. In 2008, New Hampshire and South Dakota were notable gaffes for the polling profession. Count the 2012 South Carolina polls as another bad example.
“The Florida Dilemma” – Okay, Gingrich won in media-cheap South Carolina, but he had better hope the donors come calling, and fast. Florida is a huge, diverse state with the very expensive media markets of Miami, Tampa and Orlando. Even medium TV markets, such as West Palm Beach, Jacksonville and Pensacola, are pricey! Oh, and then there are Fort Myers, Panama City, Gainesville and Sarasota. The state has ten TV markets, not to mention radio, newspapers and Internet ads. It takes a ton of money to run in Florida!
“Bring Back Larry King!” – Is there a worse analyst of U.S. Presidential politics on TV these days than CNN’s Piers Morgan? The Brit, who replaced Larry King, continues to embarrass himself (and his network). Last night, Morgan referred to Gingrich as the frontrunner now that he has won South Carolina (Newt is not); and then Morgan said John King “attacked” Newt Gingrich. A tough, pointed question? Yes; but an attack? No! Morgan looked sheepish when Wolf Blitzer corrected him on air. Morgan was clueless in Iowa, too. It’s sad, because CNN’s political team is the best, with the exception of this very weak link.
“I Was Right; but I Was Wrong!” -- A few months ago, I predicted a Republican free-for-all, with three different winners in the first three states. I had Bachmann winning Iowa; Romney winning New Hampshire; and Perry winning South Carolina. So, in theory, I was on the right path, but with a couple of the names mixed up! From the very start, this promised to be a wild GOP ride, and it hasn’t disappointed.
“Irony?” – It has been an anti-Washington, anti-insider year; but could the Republicans be poised to nominate the ultimate Washington insider, Newt Gingrich? The contradictions of politics always amaze me! Still, this race still has a long way to go, with a few more surprises I am sure!
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