Gingrich: Best Offense is a Good Defense
Liz | 01/23 at 02:23 PM
I confess to being astonished at Newt Gingrich’s stunning victory in South Carolina. In a conservative state, where voters were thought to care about social issues like gay marriage and abortion, the former speaker managed to turn aside scrutiny of his numerous personal indiscretions and instead turn the spotlight on his rival’s tax rate. What a tour de force from Mr. Gingrich! At the end, the Romney campaign has much to answer for. It is unimaginable that they did not anticipate the assault on Romney’s wealth and private equity background. After all, his principle credential in the race is his business acumen; he says, and I believe, that he is better equipped to deal with a struggling economy than President Obama. He has to make that case, and in South Carolina it became clear just how unprepared he is to do so.
Meanwhile, the firestorm in South Carolina didn’t do much to advance the GOP brand, or to set the stage for a contest with President Obama. I heartily agree with Mitch McConnell - the important thing is to defeat Obama. I continue to think that Romney has the best chance of attracting disaffected Independents - voters who were turned off last time, for instance, by Sarah Palin. Looking as far out as November, though, won’t mean much unless Romney gets through the primary maze. These are the issues that are important, and that we should focus on (borrowing from Kyle Smith’s excellent January 22 op-ed in the Post):
1) In the 2009 budget, 70% of American households were set to receive more from the government than they paid in. This imbalance cannot endure. As for Obama’s demand that everyone “do his fair share” – this single number proves just how off-base his campaign pitch is.
2) Between the end of 2007 and June 2009, the number of federal employees earning more than $100,000 rose by 47%. Obama’s administration may teem with people who don’t have any business background or understanding, but they sure seem to understand compensation!
3) 47% of Americans pay no income tax.
4) In 2009, the average government worker was paid $123,000 in pay and benefits, compared to $61,000 for private sector employees.
These are hard facts, and potent talking points. Unhappily, no one is talking about them.
A number of people emailed me after the primary, saying they liked Gingrich because he can debate rings around Romney and will be able to similarly (verbally) squash Obama. The former speaker seems able to channel the wrath of the people in a way that Romney cannot. I don’t think that Gingrich can go the distance – he’s too mercurial, too self-absorbed and there are far too many former colleagues who will attest to his serious shortcomings. This may be a make-or-break moment for Romney; he has to up his game. Let us hope he is able to do so, and then go on to defeat Obama in November.