South Carolina insiders dissect Gingrich win
January 22nd, 2012
10:22 AM ET
2 years ago

South Carolina insiders dissect Gingrich win

(CNN) - Two of South Carolina’s longest-serving elected officials said Sunday that campaign mistakes by Mitt Romney helped Newt Gingrich run away with the state’s first-in-the-South primary.

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, a powerhouse in conservative politics, told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that Romney bungled calls in the last week to release his income tax returns. Romney committed Sunday to releasing his tax forms on Tuesday.

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“I think what hurt him is he wasn't definitive in his answer,” DeMint said on CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley.”

“He should have said immediately ‘I'll do it in April,’ or ‘I'm not going to do it,’ or ‘I'm going to do it immediately.’ But the fact that he wasn't clear, I think, is what hurt him," said DeMint, who endorsed Romney in 2008 but has yet to declare his support for anyone this time.

"I frankly don't care about his tax returns," DeMint added. "I think this stigmatizing success is a real mistake for Republicans. But he just needed to be definitive about what he was going to do.”

Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, who serves as the assistant minority leader in the House of Representatives, pinned Romney’s loss on an inability to connect with South Carolina Republicans.

“Romney seemed not to be able to connect with his base; he really separated himself from the voters,” Clyburn said. “It was very clear to me that he was cutting himself off. ... He was not doing well with identifying with ordinary voters. He doesn’t seem to be able to do that.”

As for Gingrich, Clyburn said the former Georgia congressman and House speaker appealed to voters in the first Southern primary by using familiar terms when discussing President Barack Obama.

“He was throwing red meat to his base,” Clyburn said. “Throwing code words to his base, words we’re familiar with in South Carolina.”

Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American member of the House of Representatives, singled out the “food stamp president” label Gingrich has employed as a particular example of coded language.

“All of this carries certain connotations that people know very very well, and I think that he practiced that perfectly,” Clyburn said.

The South Carolina Democratic denied he was calling Gingrich a racist.

“I’m saying he’s appealing to an element in the party that sees Obama as different that any of the other presidents that we've had,” Clyburn said.

DeMint, meanwhile, said Gingrich’s assault on the media played well for voters in his state.

When asked at Thursday's debate about a claim by his ex-wife, Gingrich responded the question was inappropriate and part of an anti-conservative bias in the mainstream media.

“What they saw in the debate from Newt was that he was willing to take on the media," DeMint said. "That gives us a sense that he might be willing to take on the Washington establishment."

Also see:

Santorum stresses his own staying power in three-way race

Ethics penalty 'reimbursement,' says Gingrich

Ross defends Gingrich ex-wife interview

Gingrich plans major speeches, including one on space


Filed under: James Clyburn • Jim DeMint • South Carolina
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. va

    The Obama supporters must have voted in the SC primary

    January 22, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    The issue is not about Mittens' financial success. It is about him being a tax evader and a job destroying corporate raider. There are a lot of people in SC who are out of work because of Mittens' vulture capitalism.

    January 22, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  3. Hongli

    In order for MITT Romney to have any CREDITABILITY , He MUST release all his PAST INCOME TAX going back to BAIN CAPITAL and all FOREIGN ASSETS. Wow!!!!! including the ones in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.

    January 22, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. RS, CA

    "The South Carolina Democratic denied he was calling Gingrich a racist."

    Oh, really, Mr. Clyburn! You used your own "code words/connotations"– a la Obama/Axelrott last time around - to imply EXACTLY that! Just whom do you think you're kidding? Fortunately, THIS time we're on to your dirty tricks!

    January 22, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  5. Video Guy

    This shows that a individual who voted for Gingrich does not respect our current President. It also shows they do not respect the Office of the President.

    January 22, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  6. vic , nashville ,tn

    Sen. Jim DeMint said last week Mitt Romney will win SC, it didn’t happen

    GOP didn’t understand their voters , Voters want their candidate beat Obama not establishment candidate
    So both wont achieve their goal

    January 22, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  7. RLA

    Look out Obama!!! Newt is not afraid of the tripe you have been serving the American public and you needy base!

    January 22, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  8. Keith in Austin

    Gingrich's landslide victory in S.C. was a vivid referendum from voters against Obama's Saul Alinsky master plan! To all you misguided Obama supporters: PLEASE take a moment amd Google Saul Alinsky's philosophies and his Socialistic tenets. Therein you will see Obama's master plan for the future of America! Wake up and smell the coffee!

    January 22, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  9. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Newt has been serving the uninformed right wingnuts tripe from the chum bucket of bigotry. While wingnuts have not gotten over those gotcha questions like, "What do you read?" they blame American media for their own candidates' shortcomings.

    January 22, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  10. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    The entire republican party should be called the 'food stamp party,' because of their near depression, the loss of 8 million jobs in Bush's last three years, shipping jobs overseas to make bigger profits, and expecting 160 million workers to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

    January 22, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  11. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Give it up Keith, you are wrong again.

    January 22, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  12. Fielding Mellish

    Before the Civil War a northerner said, "South Carolina is too small to be a country, and too big to be an insane asylum." Holds true today.

    January 22, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  13. king

    I wonder if any of these repubs presidents will change their minds about trickle down economics which have destroyed our country for the past 30 years. Lesson this is not a oristicratic government where only the rich and the. Poor live. This a Democratic government where the unfortunates are given a chance to survive.

    January 22, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  14. GI Joe

    It's character, stupid. Newt has been immoral all of his adult life, and mistake after mistake after mistake doesn't cut it with me.

    Once, maybe. Twice .... ummmm. THREE TIMES? No thanks. Look at the people who endorse him - the crooks themselves that will benefit from his policies.

    Mitt is wealthy. But has he broken the law? Or done only what is legal? Again, character. If he has accounts in the Caymen's, WHY?

    January 22, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. Ann

    "That gives us a sense that he might be willing to take on the Washington establishment."

    Taking on the media is not an indication that Newt will take on the Washington establishment. He was just rude with John King. Newt IS the Washington establishment, why do voters forget it? He was an unsuccessful college professor who was denied tenure which is unbelievable for the late '70s when the competition in academia was relatively low ... maybe he was a below average teacher or he chased the students. He moved into politics and is taking credit now for others' achievements. Balancing budgets? Clinton is a political genius and was one of the most successful presidents, he created jobs and balanced budgets, not Newt. How is Newt going to 'take on the establishment' when he spent so many years as an insider. Who can trust this guy?

    January 22, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  16. GI Joe

    We want answers. And "blaming the media" rings of $ara so much it makes me sick.

    Shortcomings are being brought to light - what's wrong with that? He's admitted it - what's wrong? If he (like Hitler) can discredit the media, then how do we learn the truth?

    Me thinks he doth protest too much. (Newt is a slimy person with no moral character, yet he preaches family values. Hyprocrisy at its worst).

    January 22, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  17. Indy

    Keith in Austin
    Newts win was a referendum agianst Romney who forgot he was suppose to win the Republican nomination before debating Obama in absentia. Newts win had nothing to do with Obama or some conspiracy theory. Newts win was 100% to show Romney that people are sick of his 6 year run against Obama with the same bumper sticker politics bullcrap.

    January 22, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |