Saturday Reads: South Carolina Primary Edition

You're despicable!

Good Morning! It’s Saturday, and tonight is the South Carolina primary and Sky Dancing will be following the results tonight. But I have cartoons on my mind. Last night I was watching Hardball, and there was a discussion of Newt Gingrich’s hissy fit at the beginning of the CNN South Carolina debate on Thursday night. Here’s the video:

Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, and Eugene Robinson discussed Newt’s performance and decided that he hit all the right notes for South Carolina–anger at the media and the “elites,” a sense of being victimized by the power structure–and in fact may even beat Romney tonight. But the best part was when Eugene Robinson said when Newt said “despicable,” he (Robinson) couldn’t help thinking of Daffy Duck.

It’s such a perfect image for Newt’s self-righteous, overblown act. And it is an act, as far as I’m concerned. I loved the way he turned around the question about what he did to his ex-wife by talking about how *he* felt pain, not that he caused pain to his wife Marianne or anyone else. Here’s how I’ll forever think of Newt Gingrich from now on–as Daffy having a hissy fit.

And here’s what I’d like to say to Newt Gingrich:

Just one more …. What I’d like to do to Rick Santorum:

I know, I know, this is supposed to be a morning news post. So here are a few news and opinion links for you.

The latest polls suggest the South Carolina primary will be very close. The Clemson Palmetto poll has Gingrich in the lead.

“We expect a reaction by the electorate to the personal revelations about Gingrich to be registered on Saturday, however, we do not think it will be substantial enough to erase the lead Gingrich has over Romney,” said Clemson University political scientist Dave Woodard.

“Our head-to-head matchup of the candidates has consistently shown Mitt Romney competitive. The margin for Romney has evaporated this week, and we believe that Gingrich — who led our December poll with 38 percent to Romney’s 21 percent — will win the South Carolina primary,” he said.

Among poll respondents who had chosen or were leaning toward a candidate, this third Palmetto Poll showed Newt Gingrich (32 percent) leading the field over Mitt Romney (26 percent), up slightly from a month ago. Ron Paul came in third (11 percent), about even with his December poll rating. Rick Santorum remained in fourth place (9 percent), despite a significant jump over his ranking last month.

Wow! What an amazing turnaround for Daffy, I mean Newt. The NBC News Marist poll (PDF) showed the race tightening before the debate and even more so afterwards. And today’s Gallup tracking poll showed that Romney’s lead over Gingrich nationally has shrunk dramatically.

Mr. Romney’s position nationally as the front-runner appears to be weakening. In the latest release of Gallup’s tracking poll, conducted Sunday through Thursday, Mr. Romney leads Mr. Gingrich, 30 percent to 20 percent. Mr. Santorum and Mr. Paul are each supported by 13 percent.

At the start of the week, Mr. Romney had a 23-point advantage over Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum. These results only partially reflect the events of the week, including the departure of Rick Perry on Thursday, the focus on Mr. Romney’s taxes, Mr. Gingrich’s two debate performances and the revelation that Mr. Santorum had apparently won the Iowa caucuses after all.

The NYT reports that Romney’s people are in shock over the sudden reversal of their fortunes.

With Mitt Romney facing the biggest challenge to his presidential aspirations since he announced his candidacy, his aides acknowledged Friday what seemed unthinkable just seven days ago: He could lose the South Carolina primary….

Having been stripped of his victory in Iowa on Thursday after a recount that gave the state to Rick Santorum, Mr. Romney now is in danger of being defeated in Saturday’s primary here by Newt Gingrich, who had been declared dead not once but twice in the past year, including less than two weeks ago when he finished fifth in New Hampshire. A new Clemson University poll of South Carolina voters released on Friday showed Mr. Gingrich with a six-point lead over Mr. Romney. It was within the survey’s margin of sampling error but captured a dynamic shifting in Mr. Gingrich’s favor.

At this stage of a primary election, campaigns work hard to manage expectations so they can put the best possible face on the actual voting results; Mr. Romney’s aides were no doubt being mindful of that as they spoke in relatively gloomy tones.

But, as Mr. Romney faced attacks from all sides, renewed questions about his own stumbles and whether he is conservative enough for the grass roots of his party, there was a real aura of apprehension coursing through his campaign. With his prospects of wrapping the race up quickly apparently diminished, Mr. Romney and his strategists began preparing his staff, his supporters and his financial bundlers for a longer and rougher march toward the nomination.

Boo hoo hoo. Poor Richie Rich! Karl Rove must be having a conniption fit. Honestly, I’d be worried if I thought the Republican insiders would ever give the nomination to Newt; but frankly, I’m still a lot more worried about Mitt winning it.

Charlie Pierce is down in SC right now. Let’s see what he has to say about all this.

It was always going to happen this way — Newt was going to go back into his wheelhouse, ripping the media and spouting in the general direction of the White House whatever pile of pejorative adjectives popped into his head at the moment. He tried, lamely, to be a statesman, and the party faithful ignored him. Once he became the vandal he was born to be, the political arsonist among the abandoned tenements of Republican thought, he was bound to take off again. The base doesn’t want someone whose ideas on job creation will triumph because they are superior to the president’s. They want somebody who can beat him bloody, vicariously, on their behalf, somebody who can “put him in his place.” They want someone who will kill the administration just for the sheer fun of watching it die. That’s why Newt’s fortunes took off after he slapped around Juan Williams on Monday night, and that’s why they went into hyper-drive on Thursday when he declared to be “despicable” any public mention of the chronic staff-banging that wrecked his second marriage and that helped wreck his speakership. Sooner or later, he was going to light the whole race on fire just to giggle over the flames, and that meant he had to come do it in South Carolina, and that meant he had to come do it in the upcountry around Greenville, where the base of the base always has been located, where people can be found who will gleefully join him around the bonfire, where is located the ancient home office of American treason.

“Look,” says Kellen Giuda, the young National Coalitions Director for the Gingrich campaign, waving his hand over a map of the state that hangs on the wall not far from The Cold War Room, “this area down here in the South, this was always more moderate. This is where McCain won last time. Up here, around Greenville, that’s always been the more conservative area. This time, people concentrated their effort down there near Charleston, because they wanted to get that whole military vote down there locked up. But, now, they’re starting to see that this is the place where the conservative vote really come from.” The endorsements are coming thick and fast now — Rick Perry! Michael Reagan! One-hundred Tea Party leaders from around the country! — and they are settling on Newt, and not on Rick Santorum, because Santorum, while admittedly a dick, is not an angry bully of a dick, and that’s what the base is looking for. In fact, the Gingrich campaign tore up its schedule on Friday, and will now have the candidate working the upcountry districts around Greenville hard all primary day.

“An angry bully of a dick.” Just what we need in the White House.

This is interesting: Catholic Leaders Challenge Gingrich and Santorum on Divisive Rhetoric Around Race and Poverty

More than 40 national Catholic leaders and prominent theologians at universities across the country released a strongly worded open letter today urging “our fellow Catholics Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to stop perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes on the campaign trail.”

In the lead up to Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich has frequently blasted President Obama as a “food stamp president” and implied that some African Americans are more content to collect welfare benefits than work. Rick Santorum attracted scrutiny for telling Iowa voters he doesn’t want “to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

The open letter reminds the two presidential candidates, vying for Christian conservative voters, that U.S. Catholic bishops have called racism an “intrinsic evil” and consistently defend vital government programs such as food stamps and unemployment benefits that help struggling Americans.

The full text of the letter is at the above link. Let’s face it, both Santorum and Gingrich are just cafeteria Catholics. They go along with the Church on abortion, birth control, and other anti-woman positions; but when it comes to war, capital punishment, and caring for the poor and downtrodden, they go their own way.

Speaking of Santorum, Politico reported on his SC closing argument: “values.”

The former Pennsylvania senator retreated to comfortable territory, the conservative Upstate region of South Carolina, to speak to huge crowds about values and cement his base on the eve of the state’s primary.

“It’s decision time as to what South Carolina is going to communicate to the rest of the country,” he told the crowd at a packed town hall meeting in Boiling Springs.”What is the Upstate going to say? Who are they going to stand behind? What message are they going to send to country as to who the conservative standard-bearer will be?”

“It’ll be you, Rick!” audience members shouted, applauding.

Polls show that tomorrow’s race here is really between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich: Santorum is competing for third place with Ron Paul. But the former Pennsylvania senator has vowed to continue his campaign to Florida, which votes Jan. 31. A strong performance in the conservative bastions of South Carolina can propel his argument that he is the real conservative in the race.

I know Santorum has no shot to win the nomination this year, but my guess is he’ll be back in 2016. I think he’s very dangerous to democracy, and IMHO we need to keep an eye on him. As for Ron Paul, I’m boycotting him in this post.

That’s all I’ve got. What are you reading and blogging about today?