After all, South Carolina is a conservative state with a lot of evangelical Christian voters, who don’t go for that kind of thing.
And he might have been in trouble, except CNN’s John King came to the rescue.
King, you’ll recall, moderated the GOP presidential debate two days before the primary and right out of the box brought up Gingrich’s messy former marital life.
The conservative in-house audience booed — and then Gingrich took over.
“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country,” Gingrich fired back., “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.”
Cue the wild, enthusiastic applause coming from the audience that rose to its feet. Politico said, “It was, simply put, Gingrich’s best single moment in any 2012 debate, and he’s had many good ones.”
Two days later, Gingrich won the South Carolina primary — and it wasn’t close.
Whatever else these results tell us, one thing is clear: social conservative Christians may find open marriage repugnant, but not as repugnant as they find the so-called mainstream news media.
The news media should take notice, but if history is any indication, they won’t. They’ll write the CNN debate episode off as just one more example of those nutty right-wingers bashing the liberal media – which they deny are liberal. They continue to fiddle while their institution burns.
According to a CBS News poll, 53 percent of South Carolina voters made up their minds in the last few days before the election. Several things happened in those last few days, and I think Rick Perry’s decision to leave the race and throw his support to Gingrich was the least of them. More important was the Nightline interview with the former Mrs. Gingrich, which stunk to high heaven, and Gingrich’s put-down of John King.
Marianne Gingrich didn’t come off as a victim so much as a vengeful woman telling stories on TV about something she says happened (and he denies) more than 10 years earlier. What kind of woman, I’m guessing a lot of voters wondered, reveals conversations that took place inside a marriage – not to her sister or her best friend, but to millions of total strangers watching TV.
And the debate: Gingrich showed passion, something conservatives desperately want in their candidate and something Mitt Romney seems genetically incapable of showing. Still, even though conservatives never felt at ease with Romney, he nonetheless had been the odds-on favorite to win South Carolina, mainly because voters thought he had the best chance to defeat Barack Obama. That was before the Nightline interview and the CNN debate.
A few days ago it came out that Romney lost Iowa after he had apparently won it. So as things stand now, there have been three GOP contests and the only thing Romney has won is the New Hampshire primary; not such a big deal since New Hampshire is practically his home state. The candidacy that once seemed inevitable now seems anything but.
Yogi was right: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.