Tag Archives: Republican Party

South Carolina Shocker

I was surprised to wake up this morning to see that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had won the South Carolina primary. And won it convincingly.

Newt Gingrich by Gage SkidmoreThe final tally showed Gingrich winning the primary by 12 points over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and it puts what the Romney camp had hoped would be a quick march to the nomination into serious question. Romney has the backing of much of the Republican power structure. He’s already spending millions for advertising in Florida, which votes a week from Tuesday.

I’ve been watching Gingrich since he ascended to the Speakership in 1994. I was working for C-SPAN at the time, and Gingrich was famous for his “Special Orders” speeches, conducted in the House after the close of official business. The speeches, which could last as much as an hour, were delivered to a mostly-empty house chamber, but recorded and aired by the house television system and read into the Congressional record. It was one of the tactics that brought the speaker national recognition.

Now Gingrich, who many had discounted as unelectable, won by a substantial margin, and turned the nomination process into a horserace. He went on the offensive with the news media a debate the day ABC news aired an interview with his second ex-wife in which she asserted he had asked for an “open Mitt Romney by Gage Skidmoremarriage,” which under many circumstances could have spelled the end to his campaign. He blasted CNN for opening the debate with a question about his personal life, and said it was “despicable” for them to do so. By doing that, it’s possible he raised his standing with many of South Carolina’s conservative voters who have a pretty low opinion of the national news media. It’s certain that his debate performance  on that issue was a factor, and maybe a major factor, in his win Saturday. It can’t, however, be discounted that voters do not register by political party in South Carolina. Democrats and independents are allowed to vote in the Republican primary. It leads one to wonder how many Democrats may have turned out to cast a vote for Gingrich because they saw him as the weaker candidate, more easily defeated by Barack Obama in the fall. But President Obama would underestimate former Speaker Gingrich at his own peril.

Now, the campaign comes to Florida, where only Republicans can vote in the primary. There is a debate here in Jacksonville at UNF January 26th, and I’m expecting that my phone will start ringing incessantly with robo-calls not later than Monday. But unlike South Carolina, Florida is not a traditional “southern” state. There is an extensive diversity of thought here. The Panhandle and northeast Florida are more conservative, like the “traditional” south, which may give Gingrich and advantage. But the central and southern areas, largely from the I-4 corridor to south Florida will be more moderate, and potentially more favorable to Romney. It’s possible the Florida can make the decision, but it’s just as likely that the nominating campaign will go deep into the spring. It does appear now that the field has been winnowed to two, though former Senator Rick Santorum and Congressman Ron Paul will probably hang on as long as money continues to come in. We will see in a week if the Florida balloting swings the momentum back to Romney, or gives Gingrich an additional boost. Let the robo-calls begin. (Photos from Wikipedia by Gage Skidmore)



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Filed under Elections, Politics, Primarys, Republican Party

A Parade Of Republicans

Andie and I went this evening to a meeting of the newly-chartered First Coast Republican Club, meeting every 4th Monday at Casa Marina in Jacksonville Beach, and tonight’s gathering featured pretty much an all-star lineup of elected officials and candidates.

The danger of this is that I’m sure I’ll miss somebody, but let me see if I can hit the highlights.

GOP elephant 17th district Representative Lake Ray was the keynote speaker. Representative Ray spoke at Tiger Bay last Friday along with Mike Weinstein, but tonight’s presentation was more partisan. Given the audience, that’s not unexpected. At Tiger Bay, he talked a lot about the way things work in the State House of Representatives. It was a very enlightening talk, in my opinion, but I’ve always enjoyed that kind of “inside baseball” stuff. Tonight’s talk was about accountability … on the part of the legislature, individuals, and particularly schools. With 54 percent of the state budget allocated to education … no that’s not a typo … 54 percent, Ray says there is not enough accountability on the part of students, parents, teachers, or administrators. And that’s across the spectrum from grade school through post-secondary. He talked about the reported cuts in education funding being spin … that the legislature actually allocated MORE money per student than in past years, but that the exodus of people from the state meant fewer students in school. The funding formula is calculated on a per-student basis, so while the bottom line might be that there is less money overall being spent, there is actually more being spent per student. But that’s not the way it’s portrayed.

senate 8 Three of the four candidates seeking Jim King’s 8th district senate seat came to the meeting. Art Graham. Dan Quiggle, and Aaron Bean all spoke to the club. I won’t try to summarize each candidates’ position, but it was the first time in the campaign that I’ve seen three of the four at the same venue. I’m hoping for many more opportunities to see them all.

13th District City Council Candidate Richard Pait was next on the list. Pait is a band director/teacher, but at which school he didn’t say, and I can’t find it on his Facebook page, either. Accountability was his major theme in his short presentation as well.

Finally, we heard from Fred Lee, currently a Neptune Beach Councilman running for school board. Again, it was accountability on the part of the school administration that was the gist of his speech.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. “Tom,” I hear you cry, “you’re a journalist. How can you attend a Republican Club meeting?” To which I would answer right now, I’m a writer. Even so, my political affiliation has no bearing on my ability to report fairly. It’s pretty well known that Tim Russert worked for Democrats before taking the reigns of Meet the Press. Russert was an aide for Senator Moynahan of New York. I don’t think anybody questioned his ability to be fair because of his politics. It can be checked at the door, when need be. But for now, it doesn’t need be. In the WJCT newsroom, we all pretty much knew everybody else’s leanings, but nobody let it get in the way of reporting a story fairly. Journalists are people, and we’re all allowed to have our affiliations like anyone else. Would I have attended such a meeting when I was actively involved in daily news gathering? Well, no. But right now, that’s not an issue, and it’s a great way for me to stay involved.

But I digress.

The meeting was interrupted several times by a wild thunderstorm that blew up. Power fluctuations caused the Casa Marina fire alarm to go off several times. But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the people attending. If the momentum continues, it could be a very successful endeavor.

We’ll see.



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