Instead of a traditional victory rally, Newt Gingrich chose to give a press conference following his rival Mitt Romney’s double-digit victory in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday night. At the beginning of his remarks, Gingrich suggested the proximity of the Super Bowl on Sunday led him to choose this unconventional format, in which he resembled the coach of a losing team explaining why the rest of the season would be much better for his boys.
With Nevada’s 28 delegates set to be awarded proportionally, it looks like Romney will collect 12 delegates, while Gingrich will take 7, Ron Paul 5, and Rick Santorum will get 4. That’s a tiny fraction of the delegates needed to win the nomination, so this primary remains far from over.
Still, Gingrich knows this is the second big defeat in a row Romney has handed him, and he needed to take a hand in shaping the narrative of this election. He made use of some interesting tactics.
Right off the bat, he got the important part out of the way, shooting down rumors that he might be thinking of throwing in the towel – rumors he later attributed to Romney campaign operatives indulging their “greatest fantasy.”
“I am a candidate for President of the United States,” Gingrich declared. “I will be the candidate for President of the United States. We will go to Tampa.” He went on to tout the strength of his donor base, and outline his plans to visit Denver, Minneapolis, and Ohio in advance of their primaries. With this electoral table set, he said “everyone could relax.”
Gingrich wasted no time punching Mitt Romney’s self-inflicted wound from a televised gaffe earlier this week: “Unlike Governor Romney, I care very deeply about helping the poorest Americans. I believe that the Declaration of Independence’s commitment that our Creator endowed us with the right to pursue happiness extends to the poorest of Americans, and I believe one of the great challenges to conservatism is to turn the safety net into a trampoline, to give people an opportunity to achieve real status – earning a living, buying a house, having a decent future… so I’m not comfortable, as Governor Romney said he was, to allow people to languish in the safety net.”
He went on to take exception with Romney’s professed support for a “capricious” increase in the minimum wage, saying it would increase unemployment – particularly given the currently high rates of teenage and black teenage unemployment.
Gingrich described Romney as a “Massachusetts moderate” who should be of limited interest to “the vast majority of Republicans across the country,” given that Romney has been “pro-abortion, pro-gun-control, and pro-tax increase” during his career, and furthermore “ranked third from the bottom in creating jobs during the four years he was Governor.” He warned that Republicans would experience the same disappointment they endured in 2008 if they sent another “moderate” up against Obama in 2012.
Also, Gingrich said leftist super-villain George Soros likes Romney, and thinks there would be little practical difference between him and Barack Obama, beyond “a change of personality.” Gingrich himself strongly rejects that view, saying that if the choice is between Romney and Obama, then “it’s really no choice at all.”
Undaunted by his recent reversals of fortune, Gingrich predicted that he’d be leading his troops to a series of victories culminating in the Texas primary… which will probably be sometime in April, although at the moment only God knows when, because they’ve been trying to reschedule it. Gingrich made it clear he’s got his hatches battened down for a tough February, but is looking forward to Super Tuesday as the kickoff to a comeback in March. By the time the Texas primary rolls around, he expects to be the front-runner again.
With an eye on the Nevada votes, which were still being tallied as he spoke at 8:20 PM Pacific time, he allowed that Romney would do “reasonably well” in the caucuses… in no small part because Nevada is “a very heavily Mormon state,” which Romney won in 2008.
Oh yes, he went there.
Furthermore, Gingrich opined that he got creamed in Nevada because it’s a caucus state, and Dr. Paul has a substantial advantage in caucuses. It must have been tough for anyone else to get past the highly organized platoons of Mormons and Ron Paul supporters to vote in those caucuses. On the bright side, Gingrich was looking forward to doing better in Nevada than John McCain did in 2008, which is something of a consolation prize.
Gingrich was in high spirits throughout the press conference, joshing with reporters and pronouncing himself pleased with his current position in the primary. He’s less happy with the “Republican establishment,” which he portrayed as “desperate over the prospect of a Gingrich presidency,” to a degree that surprised even the battle-scarred former Speaker of the House. He was dismayed to see that in their desperation, the Establishment has drunk deep from the bitter dregs of negative campaigning.
Gingrich said he views one of his major challenges as “cutting through the clutter” and getting his message to the American people. He placed much of the blame for his electoral losses thus far to massive Romney campaign spending. “When it was an entirely positive campaign, up through mid-December,” he recalled fondly, “I was up by 12 points in Gallup.”
Hopefully he doesn’t think any of that has the slightest relevance to the general election campaign, which Team Obama most certainly will not be waging in anything resembling a “positive” manner. He made a good point when he said Romney would not enjoy such a lopsided campaign funding advantage over Barack Obama. Left unsaid is that Obama would have such an advantage over Newt Gingrich, unless he wins the kind of primary campaign victory that opens up the campaign donation floodgates.
A reporter obligingly tossed Gingrich a softball about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s idiotic comment that she’s going to “stick with her fellow Catholics in supporting the Administration” on forcing Catholic religious organizations to provide their employees with contraception benefits in their health insurance, despite the unified denouncement of the Catholic hierarchy, which of course does not understand their religious beliefs as well as Nancy Pelosi does. Gingrich addressed this with the same facial expression Robert DeNiro used during his famed “Are you talkin’ to me?” rant in Taxi Driver.
That Pelosi question was an even better consolation prize than surpassing John McCain’s 2008 performance in Nevada. It was such an inviting target that Gingrich went into reverse and backed his rhetorical steamroller over it again, declaring, “The Obama Administration has declared war on religious freedom in this country.” He went on to call the decision “totally outrageous” and “an illustration of radical secular ideology,” because it involved the government of the United States telling a religious institution to give up its beliefs.
No matter how much electoral disappointment he’s had to digest in the last couple of races, Newt Gingrich still doesn’t give boring press conferences.