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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field / CAMPAIGN 2012

QUICK TAKE: Gingrich Claims South Carolina Victory With Swipe at 'Elites'

Gingrich Takes SC(RON EDMONDS/AP)

photo of Jim O'Sullivan
January 21, 2012

Newt Gingrich, twice relegated to near-elimination in the Republican presidential race, capped his blowout win in South Carolina’s Saturday primary by returning to the hobbyhorse he has ridden throughout the nominating season: the news media.

Ripping “elites in Washington and New York,” Gingrich said the media had been trying for the past half-century to force Americans “to quit being Americans.”

His success, he said, was not due to his evident debating skills, but because “I articulate the deepest-felt values of the American people.”


Gingrich’s repeated verbal assaults on debate moderators – most recently on Thursday, when he confronted CNN’s John King for asking about Gingrich’s marital infidelities – have thrilled conservatives and helped vault Gingrich to the front of the field. He said on Saturday that if nominated, he would challenge President Obama to seven three-hour debates.

Gingrich said he would confront both Obama and the media elites about the “anti-religious bigotry of our elites,” then turned to a jobs message, doubling down on his charge against Obama as “the most effective food-stamp president in American history.” Gingrich said he would be the best “paycheck president in American history.”

The former House speaker's speech ranged over a vast board of hot-button issues, excoriating Obama for the national debt owed to China, the brakes thrown on the Keystone pipeline, even the Army Corps of Engineer’s review process.

Gingrich’s double-digit victory in South Carolina makes him the third winner in the early nominating states, following Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses and Mitt Romney in New Hampshire’s primary.

In his speech Saturday, Gingrich praised Santorum’s support for manufacturing and conservatism and Ron Paul’s monetary policies. He called Romney “hard-working,” saying, “[H]e has been very successful, he has organized large systems, he did a terrific [job] at the Winter Olympics.”

Romney heads into Florida with a muscular head start. In addition to residual support from 2008, the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future spent about $300,000 on mailings and $1.5 million on television in the Sunshine State over the past week, according to Federal Election Commission filings. But Gingrich – and other candidates this cycle, notably Santorum – have flouted the conventional wisdom, and Gingrich indicated both that he planned to rebut Florida ads criticizing him with spots of his own, and that he was determined to move ahead with his “campaign of ideas” paradigm.

“We have an ability to reach out to lots of people and communicate with them without millions of dollars of paid advertising,” Gingrich told the FOX Business Network as the South Carolina polls closed, according to a transcript provided by the network. “We are going to Florida with a set of big ideas.”


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