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Newt Wins, CNN Loses, The Battle Of Charleston

Last night’s Republican debate in South Carolina came at the end of one of the most tumultuous 24 hours the campaign has seen to date. From Newt Gingrich’s rise in the polls, to the continued revelations about Mitt Romney’s tax returns, to Rick Perry dropping out, to Newt’s ex-wife, the news cycle in South Carolina has shifted rapidly from one topic to another. Going into the final debate before the biggest primary to date, though, one would have thought that they would have started out talking about the economy and jobs, especially in a state where the unemployment rate is 9.9%. You might have thought that, but you would have been been wrong:

 Oh, it’s on.

John King opened the debate by asking Newt Gingrich about his ex-wife’s claims to ABC News that they had an “open marriage,” and he turned it into an attack on CNN, ABC News, and “the elite media.”

Asked if he wanted to respond to her claims as the first question of the debate, Gingrich said, “No. But I will. I think the destructive, vicious negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country.”

He added, to huge applause, “I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.”

“Every person in here knows personal pain. … to take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine,” he said. “I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.”

Here’s the video:

Going into this debate I wondered if the question would even come up at all. Gingrich had already spoken about it earlier in the day, saying the same thing that he did in the debate, and given the way the race has gone this week it was incredibly unlikely that any of the other candidates would jump at the opportunity to criticize Newt over issues regarding his personal life from 13 years ago. I certainly didn’t think that John King would lead the debate off with this type of question. King defended asking the question after the debate saying that it was “the lead story.” Perhaps this is is true, but did it really need to be the first question? I’m not so sure. In any event, Gingrich was obviously prepared for the question, though, and say what you will about the man the crowd was behind him, giving him his second standing ovation in a row.

As a viewer, it felt like it took several minutes after the Gingrich-King dress down for the mood in the debate hall to calm down but when it did it was “Advantage: Gingrich” for the rest of the night:

The new dynamic at play in the campaign was apparent on the stage, which looked starkly different from those of previous debates, with only four lecterns after the departures of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas from the race earlier in the day and Jon M. Huntsman Jr. on Monday.

With Mr. Gingrich gaining in polls against Mr. Romney, Mr. Santorum seeking momentum on news that he had the most votes in the Iowa caucuses, and Representative Ron Paul of Texas fighting to get back into the mix after campaigning only lightly here, no candidate had a free pass.

To the extent that any of the other candidates were hoping to seriously knock Mr. Romney off stride, none seemed to do so to any substantial degree, though they collectively pushed him hard on the similarities between his health care plan and the one championed by President Obama, and on his previous support for abortion rights during his political career in Massachusetts.

“I’m not questioned on character and integrity very often,” Mr. Romney responded, adding, “I don’t feel like standing here for that.”

After Mr. Santorum implied that Mr. Romney was of the sort who would “whisper into the microphone that they’re pro-life” as opposed to people like him who “go out and fight the battle,” Mr. Romney said sternly, “I did my very best to be a pro-life governor. I will be a pro-life president.”

Mr. Gingrich, who released his tax returns as the debate was under way, smiled with satisfaction when Mr. King raised the question of whether Mr. Romney would do the same.

Mr. Romney joked about his new status as an also-ran in Iowa, saying that he wished he could go back and win more votes there. If there was a worst moment for Mr. Romney, it was when he was asked by Mr. King whether he would follow the lead of his father, who released 12 years of tax returns when he was running for president in 1968.

“Maybe,” he said at first drawing some laughter but then boos from the crowd when he went on to say, “I don’t know how many years I’ll release. I’ll take a look at what our documents are.”

But as much as anything, the campaign at this stage is about the competition to be the leading conservative alternative to Mr. Romney, a scrum involving Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Santorum and Mr. Paul — some of whose supporters were in the crowd and let their displeasure be known when they believed he was being neglected by Mr. King.

Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich went after each other with considerable vigor if not venom, at one point leaving Mr. Romney to stand aside to watch, relaxed and smiling.

Mr. Santorum delivered a detailed and blistering critique questioning Mr. Gingrich’s ability to serve in the Oval Office. He pointedly accused his rival of “grandiose” views that would cloud his judgment and interfere with the leadership required of a chief executive. He accused him of turning a blind eye to the check-writing scandal in Congress.

He accused Mr. Gingrich of showing “no discipline, no ability to be able to pull things together,” in Congress, and said he presented the frequent “worrisome moment that something’s going to pop.” By contrast, he said, “I’m not the most flamboyant and I don’t get the biggest applause lines here, but I’m steady. I’m solid. I’m not going to go out and do things that you’re going to worry about.”

Mr. Gingrich sought to belittle his opponent and fired back dismissively, saying, “Long before Rick came to Congress, I was busy being a rebel.” He said that he would not apologize for proposing bold ideas and presenting big views.

There’s no real question that Newt Gingirch walked away the winner last night, not just because of the showdown with John King, but because he continued to hit on the same themes that he did in Monday night’s debate and that he has all week in the Palmetto State. As inexplicable as many observers, myself included, may find it Gingrich has hit a never with conservatives who are looking for an alternative with Mitt Romney just like he did in December and, this time, they don’t seem inclined to jump ship unless and until they have absolutely have to. As far as the personal issues go, Newt Gingrich has latched on to conservative anger at the media to push back against charges that, for the most part, everyone already knows about anyway, and it’s working. Ironically, it’s the same strategy that worked for Bill Clinton in New Hampshire in 1992. Clinton did  not “win” that primary but he managed to turn a strong second place to Paul Tsonags into momentum that sent him straight to the White House. Newt Gingrich, on the  other hand, stands a good chance of winning South Carolina and possibly changing the course of this race completely. If that happens, it will at least in part be because of the way he handled John King’s question last night.

While Newt Gingrich repeated the successes of Monday night’s debate, Mitt Romney for some reason decided to continue making some of the same mistakes he made in Monday’s debate, mistakes that have dogged him all week and no doubt continued to his slide in the polls. On the question of when he’s going to release his tax returns, Romney continued to completely flub the answer:

David Weigel says, correctly, that Romney totally blew the question. Jonathan Cohn, meanwhile, if there isn’t something in the returns that would be truly damaging.  Whatever the reason, it’s fairly astounding at this point, but it’s really rather obvious that the Romney campaign doesn’t have an answer for when Romney is going to release his tax returns other than “sometime in April,” or how many years back they are going release returns for, keeping in mind that Romney’s father released 12 years of tax returns voluntarily during the 1968 campaign. Newt Gingrich has an answer, and in fact released his return for 2010 last night. Rick Santorum has an answer, he said he does his own taxes on TurboTax and will release them when gets home and gets on his computer. Ron Paul has an answer, he said he doesn’t plan on releasing his returns at all. Why hasn’t the Romney campaign come up with an answer that puts this issue to bed already? It’s a stupid process question to some extent, but the longer they let it hang out there, the worse it gets for them.

I suppose I should mention the other candidates too. Rick Santorum actually had a fairly strong debate performance, hitting both Romney and Gingrich for their deviations from conservative principles on issues like health care. Ron Paul was, well, Ron Paul. It’s clear, though, that the real dynamic last night was between Romney and Gingrich and that the remainder of the race, no matter how long it lasts, is going to be a fight between the two of them. Of the remaining men on the stage, it’s possible we’ll hear from Rick Santorum again. If the GOP doesn’t win in 2012 I could see him being the Mike Huckabee of this cycle, with speculation turning to him in 2015 regarding another run. Ron Paul, of course, is in the middle of his swan song and won’t be running for anything again after this race.

In his commentary on the debate, E.D. Kain makes a point that I think explains quite well why Romney’s past is becoming a bigger problem than Gingrich’s right now:

The difference between Romney and Gingrich is that we’re all pretty sure we know the details of Gingrich’s dirty laundry by now. Even his ex-wife’s tell-all interview isn’t going to shine any new light on the former speaker.

Romney, on the other hand, remains something of a closed book. I bet that makes some voters nervous.

The devil you know can be a comfortable vote, and at this point I think a lot of conservatives are taking a second look at Gingrich whose warts they’ve basically come to terms with. His response to the accusations leveled at him by his ex-wife on ABC had the audience in a standing ovation, effectively turning a damning revelation into just another reason to go after the mainstream media.

One has to admire Gingrich’s tenacity at moments like these even if 90% of what he says is absolute garbage.

We know who Newt Gingrich is – but what lies beneath Romney’s slick exterior? Republicans can’t be certain. Will it give them pause this Saturday in South Carolina?

That certainly seems to be what’s likely to happen. The RealClearPolitics polling average still shows Mitt Romney with a lead, but it’s a very narrow vote at this time, but the momentum has been with Gingrich for days now. This is why Nate Silver’s election forecasting model gives Newt Gingrich a 63% chance of winning the South Carolina Primary and Romney only a 38% chance, that’s almost an exact reversal of where the model was just this past weekend. The rest of Kain’s argument seems completely spot-on to me. Say what you will about Newt Gingrich, and there’s plenty to say, but we pretty much already know everything there is to know about the man’s past, and many people seem to be discounting it at this point. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is still a mystery to a lot of people and when he does things like fail to come up with a clear, coherent answer on a simple question like releasing his tax returns it reinforces that doubts that people already have. Until Romney deals with that, he’s going to have a problem.

Ever since Monday night’s debate, the wind in South Carolina has been at Newt Gingirch’s back and in Mitt Romney’s face. Nothing that happened last night seems likely to change that one bit. In fact, if anything I would say that Gingrich’s momentum will increase over the next two days, which is exactly what you want to have happen if you’re running a campaign. A Gingrich victory in South Carolina seemed implausible just a week or two ago, but that’s just a reflection of how fast this race is moving right now. We’ve gone from Romney in trouble to Romney on the verge of sweeping the January primaries, and now we’re back at Romney in trouble again. Attention will shift after tomorrow to Florida where Romney now holds a seemingly insurmountable lead. Of course, he had a seemingly insurmountable lead in South Carolina just a week or two ago so that may mean nothing. Hang on, this one isn’t over just quite yet

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Question for anyone from South Carolina: Why, in your state that soooo values marriage and votes primarily on social issues (or at least that’s the impression based on, well, everything you see and read), is it completely taboo to ask about Newt Gingrich’s failed marriages and his screwing another woman for 6 years while married to a cancer patient, but it’s completely ok to vilify gay people and their relationships?

    (Answer, because in South Carolina, they only care about morality when it comes to people who don’t look like them or act like them – i.e., morals only matter for non-white and non-straight people.)

    Newt’s indiscretions are a private matter, but gay people? Bring it on!! I guarantee if one of the candidates was caught in a gay relationship, NO ONE in South Carolina would have had an issue with John King discussing it and HE would have been the one getting a standing ovation.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  2. Andy says:

    Pretty sure I can’t vote for any of these men who, to me, represent the worst of baby boomer narcissism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  3. Rick Almeida says:

    @Michael Demmons:

    Why, in your state that soooo values marriage and votes primarily on social issues (or at least that’s the impression based on, well, everything you see and read)”…

    As a happy resident of the Palmetto State, I encourage you to spend some time down here and educate yourself about our interesting and very diverse population.

    Your post simply reveals arrogrance and ignorance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 10

  4. sam says:

    “Rick Santorum actually had a fairly strong debate performance, hitting both Romney and Gingrich for their deviations from conservative principles on issues like health care. ”

    Actually, I thought on poise and substance (not agreeing with the substance), Santorum came off the best. Romney continues to deflate like one of those blow-up Christmas yard displays. Gringrich certainly won the audience with his rant against the cursed media. But when he said, “I think the destructive, vicious negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country,” his hypocrisy was on full display. Ron Paul reminded me of a chorus girl who keeps missing the kick.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if Gingrich won the primary. Then the fun really begins.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  5. grumpy realist says:

    I bet Obama is looking at all of this and pinching himself in disbelief. I hereby pronounce the discovery of the existence of the “Obama effect”, a phenomenon which radiates out from a politician and causes all of his present and future rivals to act in self-destructive ways, even if it’s a totally unrelated political race.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  6. Rick Almeida: I live very close by in Georgia. Until a couple years ago, I spent most weekends in rural SC. Outside the cities, don’t pretend it’s anything other than a backward, bigoted state. Yes, not EVERYONE is – but it’s the image your state is PROUD to portray to the outside world, no matter how much it embarrasses America.

    This is the state where it’s PERFECTLY ok to spread a rumor that John McCain had a black baby, remember.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 4

  7. bandit says:

    Michael Demmons says:
    Friday, January 20, 2012 at 08:06

    Go spew your ignorance somewhere else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  8. PJ says:

    MR. KING: I want to — Governor Romney, you mentioned the Democratic attacks. I want to ask you to go back in history a little bit. Back in 1967, your father set a groundbreaking — what was then a groundbreaking standard in American politics: He released his tax returns. He released them for not one year, but for 12 years. And when he did that, he said this: One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show.

    When you release yours, will you follow your father’s example?

    If Romney decides only to release one year of tax returns, his father’s words will be used against him.

    His father had a tax rate above 30%, and his tithing was 19% of his income.
    Maybe what Romney really is worried about in his tax returns is something that will hurt him a lot more in the primary than the general election. If Romney’s tithing is a high as his father’s and his tax rate is below 15%, then that might be it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. How am I being ignorant? Other than posting uncomfortable truths…

    You may not LIKE that I mention how racial politics is the order of the day in SC. You may not LIKE when I point out that Newt gets a standing ovation for putting Juan Williams in his place. You may not LIKE that I point out how it was perfectly ok for George Bush to start a rumor that John McCain had a black baby because he KNEW it would work in South Cackalacky.

    But just because you don’t like it does NOT make it untrue or demonstrate ignorance. There are exceptions to these rules, of course, and you can find good people anywhere, even in the most vile environments. But if you were open to viewing politics in South Carolina objectively instead of through rose colored glasses and a longing for times past, then you would see that what I say above is true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  10. Andre Kenji says:

    Romney did not learn a thing about the failed runs of the last two presidential contenders that came from his home state. He is doing the same erros that Dukakis and Kerry did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Why is it not ok to point out that South Carolina is the most racist, backward state in the nation when it’s objectively true?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  12. Frankly, I find Gingrich’s constant phony outrage everytime someone asks him a hard question to be annoying. And given his involvement in the Clinton impeachment, it’s the height of hypocrisy for him to complain about people’s personal lives being made into political issues. It’s gotten to the point where even if he was the far superior candidate, I doubt I would vote for him, just because I don’t think I can handle four years of having to constantly listen to his smug ass.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  13. Hey Norm says:

    The indignation of Gingrich at being asked about his indiscretions, when he spent years trashing Bill Clinton about his, is friggin’ comical. And the fact that Republicans stand and cheer for this rank hypocrisy is even funnier.
    The idea that any of the four on that stage last night is in any way qualified to be leader of the free world is funnier still. It was like watching oral exams at a Clown College.
    Romney the presumptive nominee, says about his flip-floppery on: “…Now is not the time to question someone’s words…” Really? Isn’t that what debates are for? Or are we only supposed to discuss these things in “quiet rooms”?
    And on the biggest issue we face…Health Care, which affects everything from the kitchen table to the defense budget…Romney essentially described, and thus defended, the PPACA.
    Any of these four wither up and blow away in a debate with Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  14. Franklin says:

    Oh, my, Newt Gingrich, man of honor and dignity, says something is “despicable”. Everybody listen to and applaud Mr. Perfect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. mattb says:

    The bits of the debate I heard exposed Romney’s greatest weakness — especially if the primary drags on: his decision to run a general election campaign during the primary.

    When there was a disorganized mass of not-romneys, this was a strategy that worked, because he could still win primaries with 25-30% of the votes.

    Gingrich still doesn’t have a chance on the national level (see: Virginia as an example of why). But what he is presenting is a self-assured angry muscular conservative voice (see Doug’s comments above).

    Romney on the other hand, flubbing his tax question, comes across as what conservatives hate most: a triangulating politician.

    If Gingrich can survive, he may actually force Romney to go to the right and take stronger positions. And that’s something that Team:Romney seems to think will hurt them in the general election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  16. mike says:

    If Gingrinch is the nominee then the Repubs have truly given up their “family values” campaign (not that this is a bad thing); their credibility on the issue died years ago but with tubby as the nominee, they really can’t even talk about it.

    Marriage is so sacred Newt did it three times.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. Kylopod says:

    >This is the state where it’s PERFECTLY ok to spread a rumor that John McCain had a black baby, remember.

    That’s what amazes me about this race. If Newt wins in SC, it will be the second time in 12 years that a presidential candidate has triumphed in this state through an appeal to the racial resentments of its white residents.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  18. legion says:

    @Michael Demmons:

    Why is it not ok to point out that South Carolina is the most racist, backward state in the nation when it’s objectively true?

    I’ve seen parts of West Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi that would argue that point, sir.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. John D'Geek says:

    So, let me get this straight (remember, I’m a conservative): The worst thing Romney has done to date is waffle a bit on releasing his taxes, but Conservatives are slamming him hard; Gingrich, on the other hand, is a known (and admitted?) adulterer, but a proven lack of morals aren’t a valid reason for a Conservative to challenge a candidate?

    This is why there are so many disenchanted Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. bandit says:

    @legion:

    Try Massachusetts, NY

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  21. MBunge says:

    What I took away from the debate is that if Romney is the nominee, he’s going to need a hell of a lot better answer on the Bain issue than vacuous defenses of “capitalism”. His fellow GOP candidates may be constrained for reasons internal to the Republican party, but the Democrats will not be so hesitent. I mean, the response practically writes itself.

    “When you invest in a company, it succeeds and you make millions…that’s capitalism. When you invest in a company, if fails, innocent workers lose their jobs and you STILL make millions…that’s not capitalism. That’s a scam.”

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. MBunge says:

    @John D’Geek: “a proven lack of morals aren’t a valid reason for a Conservative to challenge a candidate?”

    Bill Clinton established that cheating on one’s wife has nothing to do with one’s fitness for office.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  23. Rick Almeida says:

    @Michael Demmons:

    Yes, not EVERYONE is – but it’s the image your state is PROUD to portray to the outside world, no matter how much it embarrasses America.

    This is the state where it’s PERFECTLY ok to spread a rumor that John McCain had a black baby, remember.

    Too many factual errors here, Mr. Demmons.

    South Carolinians did not “spread a rumor that John McCain had a black baby”. Instead, it’s alleged that the George W. Bush 2000 primary campaign sponsored a push poll in SC that asked respondents about the impact of this reprehensible claim on their opinion of McCain. If you can provide evidence that South Carolinians “spread” this “rumor”, I would be very happy to see it.

    One thing that I’ve become firmly convinced of in my time here is that virtually every South Carolinian I know hates how our state appears in the media and to many observers outside the state. As a resident of Georgia, I’d think you’d be much more aware of and responsive to the diversity and frustrations of a Deep South polity.

    Perhaps the scorn you heap is simply an attempt to obscure the lack of greener grass on your side of the proverbial fence. You certainly don’t come across as a thoughtful observer of much of anything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. @John D’Geek:

    The fetish for Newt is a lot like the party’s equally frustrating fascination with John Bolton. All that matters is that they’re willing to be a total ass to everyone, even if that means they’ll never accomplish anything in terms of actually getting conservative policies implemented.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. Hey Norm says:

    @ Mike Bunge…

    “…When you invest in a company, it succeeds and you make millions…that’s capitalism. When you invest in a company, take millions in Government subsidies, it fails, innocent workers lose their jobs and you STILL make millions…that’s not capitalism. That’s a scam…”

    Fixed that up for you. Too often the fact that Bain benefited greatly from Corporate Welfare is lost in the discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. mattb says:

    @John D’Geek:
    In all seriousness, it’s a two part thing:

    The first is the waffling — regardless of what topic — is going to hurt Romney with movement conservatives. He’s long been accused of being too much of a flip-flopper and having no fire in his belly. The lack of decisiveness in any answer is a big problem for him. Additionally the entire Tax thing is see by some conservatives as a trademark attack by the “liberal media.” So Romney’s weak response will be compared to Newt’s decisiveness on the marriage issues.

    The second continues to be that Romney is doing everything possible to avoid running a primary — read as appealing to base conservatives — campaign. His calculus is that those folks will, for the most part, still vote for him in the general election. Romney is concentrating on not taking any primary position that will come to haunt him in the general election. That off course infuriates movement-conservatives, who believe (like some posters here) that the rest of America really shares their views, and all that’s needed is a straight talker who isn’t afraid/ashamed of being a real conservative (hence the love affair many have with Palin).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  27. Moosebreath says:

    Kylopod,

    “That’s what amazes me about this race. If Newt wins in SC, it will be the second time in 12 years that a presidential candidate has triumphed in this state through an appeal to the racial resentments of its white residents.”

    And this amazes you because…?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Carson says:

    There are several important issues that are not being addressed by the candidates and the news media at these debates (at least I haven’t heard it).
    One is the increasing prices of food: $4 -bag of chips, $1.50 – 20 oz. soft drink, $4 – gal. milk.
    Everytime I go to the store I pay more.
    The second is probably caused some by the food price inflation: the insane cost of a gallon of gas. Michelle Bachman is the only one who has mentioned doing something about it and now she is gone. The president doesn’t care and the other candidates don’t seem interested either. The least that could be done is to take the gas tax off for a while. This would give the working class people a little relief.
    Working class people are being squeezed from every direction: high prices, high gas prices, and high taxes. We need some relief!
    Two other big issues are the horrible crime rate and the moral crisis in this country. I will get to those later.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  29. WR says:

    @Carson: “Working class people are being squeezed from every direction: high prices, high gas prices, and high taxes. We need some relief!
    Two other big issues are the horrible crime rate and the moral crisis in this country. ”

    Except in the real world, both tax rates and crime rates are at historic lows. You have to feel sorry for someone like Carson who is so steeeped in right wing insanity that he’s unable even to lift up his own eyes and see what’s in front of him. I have no doubt that times are hard for him — as for so many others — but instead of looking for the real problems, he listens to Rush and believes whatever he’s told.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. Tillman says:

    It’s a good thing I was too drunk to watch this debate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. Rob in CT says:

    @Carson:

    One is the increasing prices of food: $4 -bag of chips, $1.50 – 20 oz. soft drink, $4 – gal. milk.

    My understanding is that this is mostly due to two things: higher shipping costs due to higher gas costs and higher demand from other areas of the world for things like meat (Chinese people having more money, buying more meat = meat costs more).

    But what, exactly, can the US government do about that? We can’t control the price of oil, which is a global commodity largely produced outside the USA. The USA has very little in additional reserves to drill for (if we went whole-hogged for drill baby drill, the impact on gas prices would be in the realm of a few cents a gallon. Negligible).

    The gas tax thing: yes, that would likely help out somewhat, but comes at a cost (likely increased consumption of gasoline, which has environmental consequences, and also of course the revenue hit the government would take). Rather than provide relief in that fashion, the government did it another way: a payroll tax cut (starting last year, recently extended and likely to be extended again). FICA taxes in 2011 and so far this year on the employee side are 5.65% instead of the usual 7.65%. If you earn $40k/year, that’s $800, right? The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents/gallon. So the FICA tax cut using the example of $40k pay works out to the equivalent of not paying federal gas tax on 43 gallons of gas. Not a lot, but something. I agree more could be done, though, to assist working class Americans.

    Working class people are being squeezed from every direction: high prices, high gas prices, and high taxes. We need some relief!

    Other than the taxes point, which at least at the federal level just isn’t true (I don’t know what your state/local taxes are, so I’ll put that aside), I sympathize and agree. There have been three governmental attempts to address this: the Stimulus, extended unemployment insurance benefits, and the payroll tax cut. None of those are magic, but they helped somewhat. The question now is what to do next, especially with an eye toward the medium/long term.

    Re: crime, as WR says: crime has been moving in the right direction for quite some time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. anjin-san says:

    The least that could be done is to take the gas tax off for a while.

    Ah. Our infrastructure is not crumbling fast enough to please conservatives, we need to speed the process up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  33. Rob in CT says:

    Of course, one could pay for a gas tax cut or a payroll tax cut or some other assistance for working-class Americans via a tax increase on the rich, but that’s flatly unacceptable to the GOP. Increased tax progressivity is a total non-starter with the GOP – indeed, all of their candidates for POTUS have rolled out tax plans that make the system less progressive than the status quo (which is, in turn, less progressive than it was 30 years ago).

    That’s THEIR plan to “help” working class Americans. Cut taxes on the rich and jobs will rain down like manna from the heavens. An astute reader will recall that this has been promised repeatedly in the past, and the results have never matched the predictions.

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  34. E.D. Kain says:

    Thanks for the link, Doug. I agree – all the momentum is behind Gingrich at this point and I don’t think that’s changing in South Carolina. What that means for Florida is much harder to say.

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  35. Fiona says:

    Like Doug, I was amazed to flip on the TV, turn to the debate, and see John King ask Newt a question related to the interview with Newt’s ex-wife. King should be fired for lobbing that kind of inane and irrelevant softball at a presidential candidate. It allowed Newt to play the victim and launch into a vitriolic attack on the “librul” media that likely made Sarah Palin’s heart skip a beat or two. The crowd ate it up. Poor Newt defending his virtue against CNN.

    While that answer probably cinched the South Carolina primary for the Gingrich, Romney helped him along by answering “maybe” to the question of whether he’d release several tax returns. It was a wormy, weaselly answer that confirmed all suspicions that Mitt has no substance, only surface, that he’s just another pussy boy from Massachusetts.

    I almost didn’t watch this debate, as I long ago reached the point where they make my ears bleed, but I’m glad I tuned in. If it comes down to either Newt or Romney, I feel pretty good about Obama’s chances.

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  36. Lucile says:

    @mike:

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  37. Lucile says:

    I am quite sure that American moral value is not so low that they would elect a man who rejects birth control for women but would recommend they have open marriage and that a husband should divorce his wife if she becomes sick. I do not think America has such low opinion of women. Am I wrong?

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  38. doubter4444 says:

    @Rick Almeida:
    I’ll grant you some of that.
    But My father in law lives there and I’ve been there lots – even to the more gentrified parts of Merytle Beach and the coast where lots of retirees from the north go (for the tax breaks and the golf, which is exactly my my wife’s parents moved there).
    But even there – in the most touristy part of the state, it’s rife with people calmly and proudly expressing sentiments that are appalling – abut the president, the blacks, and jews you name it.
    Is it more than other parts of the deep south?
    I don’t don’t know – but please don’t try to media bias, I’ve been there and I’ve sen it, and seen the pernicious chance in my family form just absorbing the hate 24/7.
    Sorry – and perhaps it’s just me and a week family member, but I don’t think so

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  39. Pete says:

    @legion: Yes and I grew up in Chicago where the “Negro” was relegated to Cabrini Green, Robert Taylor Homes, the southeast ghetto and any place “Hizzoner” Daley and all the racist democrats decided. All you “holier than thou” dreamers who think racism is a “suthern” thing live in tragic delusion.

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  40. An Interested Party says:

    As a happy resident of the Palmetto State, I encourage you to spend some time down here and educate yourself about our interesting and very diverse population.

    The crowds at these debates (this one and the other on Monday) are doing your state a huge disservice…

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