For much of the campaign, until this week really, Mitt Romney’s good fortune has been hailed among his chief assets: a feeble collection of rivals, their inability to disparage him effectively, economic conditions playing to his strengths.
But what about Newt Gingrich? Lost amid Gingrich’s jeremiad Thursday night against those who would question his marital choices was what Gingrich registered as his biggest regret of his campaign: “I would skip the opening three months where I hired regular consultants and tried to figure how to be a normal candidate.”
That’s it? Not excoriating Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan as “social engineering”? Or turning his back on New Hampshire after the Union-Leader buss?
That the former House speaker's regrets boil down to hiring a few consultants, that he’s on the cusp of maybe winning South Carolina after a hellacious pounding—some of his own making—says much about what kind of race it has been, and suggests that perhaps Gingrich is the lucky one after all.
Romney’s camp moved quickly on Friday to tamp down the long-held assumption that South Carolina would crown the former Massachusetts governor the GOP standard-bearer. Now, Romney appears resigned to falling back on what is still a sturdy strategy (See: Obama, Barack, 2008): assiduous courting of down-calendar delegates through a careful and concentrated strategy.
“What I can tell you is, this is a campaign that is gonna go the distance,” Romney said on Friday.
That’s not luck, or if it is, it’s the self-made kind. Expect Romney to trot out more of the self-made talk. Combating the silver-spoon image, he has a strong case to make that he made his own way through hard work. It might be one way for Romney to solve the long-running discomfort he evidently feels about discussing his wealth.
Tomorrow in South Carolina—and, after that, in Florida and perhaps beyond—Romney and Gingrich find out whether it’s better to be lucky or to be good.
NATIONAL JOURNAL'S SOUTH CAROLINA REPORT
How To Spend Your Saturday Night
National Journal’s Reid Wilson has some tips for the key areas to watch as the Palmetto State numbers roll in Saturday night.
Gingrich Playing the Media He Loves to Hate
Gingrich has been ducking the media today because the image he wants to linger in the minds of voters as they go to the polls Saturday is his soon-to-be-historic takedown of a debate moderator, as National Journal’s Jackie Koszczuk writes — not the one Marianne Gingrich painted of the candidate for ABC.
Sununu Predicts 'Long Slog' for Romney After South Carolina
Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu told reporters this morning that the Romney campaign is ready for a "long slog," a possible sign that the Romney campaign is preparing for a South Carolina loss on Saturday, the Huffington Post reports.
The Race is Still Romney’s
Even if the wake of Gingrich’s surging momentum in South Carolina, the fact remains that Romney is the overwhelming front-runner for the Republican nomination — and Saturday’s primary won't do anything to change that, National Journal’sReid Wilson writes.
Romney Camp Calls Gingrich 'Granddaddy of Earmarks'
On a conference call with reporters Friday, the Romney camp launched a new attack on Gingrich’s record in Congress, calling the former House speaker the “granddaddy of earmarks."
Colbert and Cain: Absurdist Politics in South Carolina
Welcome to the freak show. The absurdities of the trail reached a peak — or nadir — when Colbert descended on the College of Charleston campus for what was billed as a "Rock Me Like a Herman Cain South Cain-olina Primary Rally.”
Livingston: ‘Newt is Volatile’
Former Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., acting as a surrogate and supporter of Gingrich, was surprisingly candid with a small crowd in Charleston. With friends like these, Gingrich should probably follow Harry Truman’s advice and get a dog.
Va. Gov. McDonnell Endorses Romney
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell endorsed Mitt Romney on Friday, ahead of tomorrow's South Carolina primary. In a tweet, McDonnell announced his endorsement ahead of appearing on several cable news networks. The Republican Governors Association chairman called Romney an "effective leader."
Brokered Convention? 8 Paths to Tampa in Wake of Gingrich Surge
Romney is still the heavy favorite to winning the GOP nomination. But with the most recent rise of Newt Gingrich and several other factors hanging in the balance, here are eight paths to a brokered convention. National Journal’s Ron Fournier reports.
Colbert Offers Early Riff on Gingrich's 'Open Marriage' Comments
Comedian Stephen Colbert offered an early lampoon of Thursday night's GOP debate, sarcastically echoing Newt Gingrich's angry answer to the charge that he once asked his ex-wife for an open marriage. Later in the day, Colbert held a rally with former presidential candidate Herman Cain in Charleston, whom he is endorsing for President of the United States of America of South Carolina
Santorum: As President, Romney Wouldn’t Appoint Conservative Judges
In a Washington Times op-ed out Friday, Santorum expressed doubts that, if elected president, Romney would appoint judicial conservatives to the Supreme Court.
So, How Did They Do?
Gingrich’s full blame-the-media strategy on the "open marriage" question seemed to work. Santorum seemed the most connected to working families. Romney was fine, ready, and robotic. Ron Paul was Ron Paul.
Newt Is Debater-In-Chief. But President?
Gingrich is a superb debater, but there is just too much baggage in a Gingrich candidacy, National Journal's Michael Hirsh writes.
Gingrich Releases Tax Returns As Debate Begins
Did Gingrich release his tax returns right at the start of the debate to embarrass Romney, or to divert attention away from the $3 million-plus he earned in 2010?
Gingrich Fierce, Santorum Strong, Romney Unexciting
In their final debate before the critical South Carolina primary, the remaining gang of four GOP candidates went out with a bang, as National Journal's Ron Brownstein writes.
Tumultuous Final Days Muddy Romney-Gingrich Contest in S.C.
Gingrich's rise threatens the formula that had the Romney camp, only a few days ago, envisioning a South Carolina victory followed by a march to the nomination.
SOUTH CAROLINA NEWS SUMMARY
Krauthammer: The GOP’s Suicide March
[Washington Post, 1/19/12] The circumstances for a Republican presidential win were right going into the primaries. But the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer writes that the GOP might lose because of Obama's "self-destructive adversaries."
Santorum on Newt's Marital Past: 'Issues of Character'
[Politico, 1/20/12] Asked Wednesday by a voter about Gingrich’s three marriages, Santorum said that although they are personal matters voters should consider them “issues of character.” He added that be “believes in forgiveness.”
Romney Calls on Gingrich to Release House Ethics Report
[The Hill, 1/20/12] Romney and his ally South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called on Gingrich to release the House Ethics Committee report that led to a $300,000 fine during his speakership.
Santorum Bus Blows a Tire
[Wall Street Journal, 1/20/12] Santorum’s campaign bus seemed to be cruising along in South Carolina. But it got a flat tire, literally. So Santorum arrived to a town hall event in style – riding a pickup truck.
Clemson Palmetto Poll Finds Gingrich Ahead, 20% of S.C. Voters Still Uncommitted
[Clemson University, 1/20/12] A new poll conducted by Clemson University finds Gingrich is leading among South Carolina voters with 32 percent, followed by Romney at 26 percent and Santorum in fourth with 9 percent. Twenty percent remain undecided. The poll was taken between Jan. 18-19.
The Colbert Surge
[Slate, 1/20/12] While Gingrich had to cancel a speaking engagement this morning from lack of turnout, Stephen Colbert held a big rally with Herman Cain a few blocks down the street.
Former S.C. First Lady: Newt Wouldn’t Get My Vote
[The State, 1/20/12] The wife of former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who divorced her husband after he had an affair with a woman from Argentina while in office, urged voters to consider Gingrich’s personal history.
Editorial: Moralizing High Cost
[New York Times, 1/20/12] The New York Times editorial board writes that it's magnanimous of Gingrich to be willing to allow voters to decide for themselves on the importance of his moral choices, since he and his party have been so unwilling to allow the public to make its own moral choices.
Santorum Rose Quickly From Reformer to Insider
[New York Times, 1/19/12] A look at the arc of Santorum's political career reveals a savvy operator and sharp tactician, a climber who became a member of the Washington establishment that he had once railed against
Santorum Says He's Moving Ahead Regardless of S.C. Vote
[The Hill, 1/20/12] On C-SPAN this morning, Santorum said that he will continue his presidential bid regardless of how he does in the Palmetto State and said, "We're going forward.”
South Carolina Smackdown
[Factcheck.org, 1/20/12] The four remaining GOP contenders strained their facts during Thursday's debate in South Carolina.
Palin: ‘Dumb Arses’ in Media 'Overplayed Their Hand' with Gingrich
[The Daily Caller, 1/19/12] Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said on Sean Hannity's radio show Thursday that the media "overplayed its hand" with the Gingrich story. She went on to call those who went after the story "dumb arses."
The GOP's Quidditch-Style Debate
[Washington Post, 1/20/12] There are the beaters, Santorum and Gingrich, who attack; the seeker, Paul, who runs his own race; and the keeper, Romney, who is trying to protect the goal and run out the clock.
Perry’s K Street Allies Jump to Romney, Not Gingrich
[Roll Call, 1/19/12] Even though Perry endorsed Gingrich, the Texas governor's top K Street supporter, Dirk Van Dongen, lost no time in throwing his support behind Romney — and predicted that many Beltway players will do the same.
Rick Perry's Big News Was Broken at Wendy's
[Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, 1/19/12] Texas Gov. Rick Perry broke the news that he was ending his presidential campaign to his senior aide Ray Sullivan over burgers at Wendy’s on Wednesday night. Perry told him he wanted to "respect the voters of South Carolina" and bow out.
Fake CNN Email Used as Dirty Trick in S.C.
[CNN, 1/20/12] A fake CNN alert was emailed out to state GOP activists early Thursday morning that claimed Gingrich pressured his second ex-wife, Marianne, to get an abortion. It is still unclear who sent the alert.