RedState Editor-In-Chief and CNN contributor Erick Erickson confesses that South Carolina’s Newt Gingrich vote was primarily based on emotional enthusiasm for the image of Warrior Newt Slayer of Leftist Dragons, not rational analysis of how he’d perform as president or general election candidate (emphases mine):
Newt has taken the worst the media, Romney and the left can dish out, and he’s still standing and fighting with passion and eloquence. Sure, he’d probably be an erratic President, but right now Republican voters don’t care about his Presidency. They care about the fight with the left both Mitt Romney, and the Washington Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell don’t seem inclined to engage in.
In every way in the last two weeks, Romney has signaled he won’t fight for the base. He looks like a lost child when trying to answer the taxes issue. He couldn’t stand up to Santorum in the debate. He sounds every bit like Gordon Gekko, not Milton Friedman, when he talks Bain and free markets.
Basically, today’s vote is about Republican grassroots giving the Washington Republican establishment the finger. The base is angry, and right now, only Newt is left to fight for them, as imperfect as he is. We may still end up with Romney, but voters aren’t going to let him have it easily.
During the general election we’ll have to put up with Huffington Post and The Nation using Oliver Stone’s Marxist Wall Street caricature to smear Romney. Yet during the primary it’s disappointing to see Erickson reach for our opponents’ rhetorical weapons.
But at least The Nation recognizes when Tea Partiers borrow their arguments. Here’s Ben Adler with the lead article this morning (emphases mine):
…Professional conservatives who actually believe in free market capitalism clucked their tongues at Gingrich’s attacks on Romney for having presided over some layoffs at Bain Capital. They even predicted it would backfire among Republican voters. But it didn’t. That’s because Republicans don’t actually favor free market capitalism or small government.
Gingrich’s theme of making people work instead of living the easy life of getting by on food stamps and welfare appeals to Republicans because it is fundamentally a cultural appeal. It’s about attacking the values of some indolent pack of others, be they minorities, young people, immigrants, hippies or city-dwellers. That’s why middle-class and working-class whites—who do not benefit from Republican economic policies—vote for them.
The people who actually favor free market economics out of principle or self-interest—the rich and political professionals—mostly supported Romney in South Carolina. But they are relatively small in number.
Gingrich knows this, which is why he stuck to his ideologically inconsistent criticism of Romney. And he pandered to the hypocrisy of the Republican base on economic policy. Gingrich constantly promised in campaign speeches and the debates that he would use federal money to build an Interstate highway connection from Myrtle Beach to I-95 and deepen the port in Charleston. Those might be good ideas, but it’s precisely the kind of buying votes with other people’s money that Republicans accuse Democrats of doing.
So in summary: At Red State Erickson admitted that Gingrich won South Carolina because voters did not care what he would do as president; they mainly just wanted to act like adolescents thrilled to flip the bird at The Man for, in Erick’s words, trying “to foist on the base a milquetoast moderate from Massachusetts.” Meanwhile, as long as Newt’s star is rising everyone — not just Democrats — can credibly claim that Republicans don’t actually care about limited government. Looks like the stopped clock at The Nation — which has barely moved since 2:50 AM on November 7, 1917 — earns one of its two minutes of daily accuracy.