Republican Race Wide Open

After three contests with three different winners, it’s wide open in the race to choose a Republican nominee.

And in the process, the campaign of Newt Gingrich has gained new life.

Newt Gingrich resurrected his campaign Saturday with a stunning victory in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, leveraging strong debate performances and a handful of wrong turns for Mitt Romney to surge past the former frontrunner and reset the race which is now headed for Florida.

After claiming his first primary win, the former House speaker rallied supporters on the road to the next contest on Jan. 31. Gingrich, looking to convey the image of a general election candidate, focused his victory speech almost entirely on President Obama, unloading some of his toughest criticism to date on the White House incumbent.

“He makes Jimmy Carter look strong,” Gingrich quipped at the close of his speech.

Gingrich faces organizational challenges going forward, but he said Saturday: “We don’t have the kind of money at least one of the candidates has, but we do have ideas and we do have people.”

Gingrich locked up a decisive victory in the state. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Gingrich pulled in 41 percent of the vote, to Romney’s 27 percent.

Rick Santorum finished in third with 17 percent, followed by Ron Paul with 13 percent.

What a difference a week makes in the world of politics.

The leader board virtually ensures a drawn-out Republican race, a turnaround from just a week ago when Romney seemed poised to clinch the nomination in short order.

Romney, at his post-election rally in South Carolina, acknowledged that he sees a “long primary season” ahead and vowed to put up a stiff fight.

“I’ll keep fighting for every single vote. I will compete in every single state,” Romney said.

Gingrich surged to win South Carolina after what was arguably the most eventful week of the primary season. Rick Perry dropped out of the race Thursday, throwing his support behind Gingrich. The Iowa Republican Party dropped the surprise announcement that Santorum, and not Romney, had actually won the Iowa caucuses. And Romney found himself repeatedly struggling to answer questions — pushed by the Gingrich campaign and echoed in the media — about why he’s not releasing his tax returns before April. Meanwhile, Gingrich was able to deflect questions about allegations from his second wife that he once sought an “open marriage.”

His scorching answer at Thursday’s debate to a question on the subject may have even helped improve his standing ahead of the South Carolina vote.

While the Republican establishment may have wanted things to be wrapped up by now, tonight’s results are great for the American people who should be the one’s choosing the Republican nominee.

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Santorum “Certified Winner” in Iowa

The “split decision” in Iowa didn’t last long.  Rick Santorum has been certified the winner of the Iowa caucus.

, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

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“In order to clarify conflicting reports and to affirm the results released January 18 by the Republican Party of Iowa, Chairman Matthew Strawn and the State Central Committee declared Senator Rick Santorum the winner of the 2012 Iowa Caucus,” the state GOP’s statement read.

The news is a blow to the campaign of Mitt Romney.

The news that Romney — who for two weeks celebrated what he jokingly called a ‘landslide’ eight-vote victory in Iowa, only to see it reversed this week when the state GOP certified Santorum the leader by 34 votes — officially lost the first contest muddies his narrative, especially as Newt Gingrich surges in the polls in South Carolina.

Basically instead of possibly going three for three in the early voting states, the candidate of the Republican establishment is on the verge of going one for three.  It also means that the race to become the Republican nominee for President is wide open.

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Santorum Real Debate Winner

While all the talk is about how Newt Gingrich schooled CNN moderator John King in last night’s debate, some interesting reasoning on how Rick Santorum was the real winner of the debate.

, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

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If I were a conservative Republican in South Carolina and Thursday night’s debate was the first I’d watched during this primary season, the choice would be easy. Rick Santorum. I know: It surprised me, too.

While he might have fewer overall followers than the other three candidates, Santorum nonetheless (or because of this) debated flawlessly. It was the single most impressive debate performance in this long series from any of the candidates.

Newt Gingrich also had his moments, pulling out whatever “go-to” trick in his arsenal the moment required. But on the issues, and for conservative Republican South Carolina voters, Santorum was the one running on all cylinders.

So why, despite trailing in the polls, did Rick Santorum win?

First, nobody was attacking him. He had a free roll. So in this case, it paid for Santorum to be last in the polls. He attacked Mitt Romney and Gingrich and was never put on his heels by his opponents. With no predators in sight, Santorum dominated the environment like an Asian carp.

Second, his criticisms were focused and covered important conservative issues. He hammered away on health care at both Romney. (At one point Romney actually made the error of calling his own plan “Romneycare.” Next thing you know he will accidentally call it “Obamneycare.”) And then Santorum laid into Gingrich on individual mandates, which the former House speaker supported for 10 years.

More than once, Santorum drove home the notion that Gingrich is a loose cannon and Republicans can’t afford that in a nominee. He flatly stated that Gingrich has “no discipline.” Gingrich had suggested earlier that Santorum should drop out of the race. “These are not cogent thoughts,” Santorum responded in the debate, reminding the audience that he is “2 and 0” against Gingrich in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and with much less money.

Finally, Santorum did a good job presenting his own ideas — zero taxes for manufacturing corporations, his anti-abortion stance — and his closing remarks were right on the mark. In them, he talked about his electability over President Barack Obama. He went point by point describing his differences with Obama on health care and bailouts — reminding the audience not so subtly that Romney and Gingrich supported the bailouts. Santorum concluded by saying he was the only Republican on stage ever to beat an incumbent Democrat.

So will it translate to votes for Rick Santorum?

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Gingrich wins Fox South Carolina Debate


Newt Gingrich needed to make an impact in last night’s debate.  It appears he did:

English: Newt Gingrich at a political conferen...

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Gingrich received a raucous standing ovation for his back and forth with liberal moderator Juan Williams. Williams asked Gingrich if he could see how his comments about how “black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps” were viewed, “at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans.”

“No,” Gingrich curtly said, using Williams as a perfect liberal foil. “I don’t see that.”

Gingrich said his daughter’s first job was doing janitorial work and “she liked earning the money” and “liked learning that if you worked, you got paid.” He said only elites “despise” giving people opportunities to earn money.

When Williams pressed Gingrich further, Gingrich said, “the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.”

Gingrich noted Obama’s failures in creating jobs, which has has left many communities even more desolate, and said he believed “every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness.”

“And if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job,” Gingrich said.

After schooling Juan Williams, Newt turned his attention to terrorism.

When discussing terrorism, Gingrich eviscerated Ron Paul when Paul equated Osama Bin Laden to a Chinese dissident, calling that analogy “utterly irrational”

“A Chinese dissident who comes in here — a Chinese dissident who comes here seeking freedom is not the same as a terrorist who goes to Pakistan seeking asylum,” Gingrich said, noting that a 13-year-old named Andrew Jackson was sabred by a British officer during the Revolutionary War in South Carolina and wore that scare his whole life.

“Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them,” Gingrich said to another round of raucous applause.

Newt also pointed out why “No Child Left Behind” is an utter and total failure.

And when asked about No Child Left Behind, the Bush Administration law loathed by conservatives, Gingrich emphatically said it was “clearly a failure” because “ it has led teachers to be forced into a bureaucratic system of teaching to the test. I find virtually no teacher who likes it.”

Gingrich said that “first generation immigrants who don’t speak very good English are being tested against a national standard. And a perfectly good school looks bad even though it’s doing a great job because there’s no measurement that’s reasonable.”

Gingrich said he would say to the states that it would be good for them to “shrink their Departments of Education and return the power back to the local county boards, and then let parents and teachers and students get back to learning.”

So did Newt show why he could be the candidate that liberals don’t want to win the Republican nomination?

Polls have shown Republican voters in South Carolina care most about defeating President Barack Obama, and Gingrich has always argued that he is the best suited to do so because he can take on Obama in the debates while running a campaign of inclusion that appeals to Americans of all backgrounds.

His exchange with Williams offered a potential preview of how effective Gingrich can be in taking on the liberal establishment, which will immediately bombard the eventual GOP nominee, in a way that can galvanize conservatives while being inclusive of and inspirational to all Americans.

Such moments can swing voter sentiment and turn elections around, and that is why Obama would probably fear Gingrich the most in a general election.

While he won this debate, whether he can win in South Carolina and continue his campaign will be determined Saturday.

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