Today South Carolina Republicans vote in their state’s presidential primary. Polls indicate it is a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich apparently has been given a boost by the most recent Republican candidates debate. Gingrich was asked about the recent comments of his ex-wife, who said he asked that she agree to an “open marriage” in which he could have both a wife and a mistress. In response, Gingrich lashed out at the questioner and the media, generally, for focusing on irrelevancies and making the first question in a presidential debate one about his long-ago personal affairs. The audience of Republicans, who apparently hate the media with every fiber of their beings, ate it up and gave Gingrich a standing ovation.
I don’t care about Gingrich’s past personal behavior — but I also don’t see why his set-piece smackdown of a question about it is such a great thing. Some rock-ribbed conservatives seem to despise the media and love to see them publicly criticized for any reason; I don’t share that view.
To me, the little diatribe was an obvious, planned bit of political theater, and the fact that Gingrich palled around with the questioner after the debate just confirms it. Gingrich has deep roots and connections in the Washington social milieu of politicians, lobbyists, reporters, and consultants. When he gave his little angry performance, his inside-the-Beltway buddies no doubt leaned back, nodded to each other, and agreed that Gingrich was just doing the necessary political thing, knowing the rubes would eat it up — and they did.
Gingrich’s debate diatribe may well win South Carolina for him, but I think his performance really exposes him as just another calculated politician.