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Right Turn
Posted at 10:20 PM ET, 01/21/2012

Santorum inspiring, Gingrich down in the dumps in South Carolina

Rick Santorum, as he did in Iowa, gave a terrific, well-conceived speech Saturday night stressing his message of equal opportunity and emphasizing his appeal to working- and middle-class voters. Declaring that Republicans must also be a party with heart that values work and focuses on lifting up all Americans, he effectively wove together his dual economic and social messages. He seems determined to remain in the race through Florida and beyond, as well he should. He adds intellectual heft and superior debating skills to race, and if he is not the winner, he will still improve the messaging of the eventual nominee.

Newt Gingrich looked weirdly morose for much of his speech. He rambled along with some thanks, then said some nice things about his opponents and — no surprise! — took after the media and disagreeable judges, whom he deemed “religious bigots.” He said, “no, I’m not a great debater — no, really — I’m not.” And then with Newtonian arrogance, he declared, “I just articulate the deepest-held values of the American people.” Of course, he hawked his idea of Lincoln-Douglas debates. (Even to supporters, doesn’t this sound loony?)

Then on to some more substantive matters, he pledged to streamline the government and rapped President Obama for delaying the Keystone XL Pipeline. In there was something about the Army Corps of Engineers and a dig about Obama not being able to play tic-tac-toe, let alone checkers or chess. He resorted to his “president of food stamps vs. president of paychecks.” It was too long, too, lacking in substance and incoherent. It was, compared to Santorum’s Iowa speech and Mitt Romney’s New Hampshire speech, oddly lame. It was not the speech of a frontrunner or of someone who seems to be actually trying to put together a winning presidential campaign.

Frankly, it is very hard to understand how Gingrich’s “message” (more like a Google thought cloud: “boo elites, religious bigots, food stamps”) won in South Carolina. Floridians may be confused as well. Santorum and Romney should be heartened. They are running against a candidate who seems uncomfortable with victory and with no definable message beyond “the elites hate America.” As Santorum put it in Iowa, game on.

By  |  10:20 PM ET, 01/21/2012

 
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