The sting of the citizens united vs. the Federal Election Commission, was felt last night as the returns of the South Carolina presidential primary came in. With the infusion of millions of dollars from a billionaire Las Vegas casino owner and with 40.4% of the vote, Newt “Baby Huey” Gingrich defeated the nominal GOP frontrunner Willard “Mitt” Romney by nearly 13 percentage points 40.4% to 27.9 in a stunning upset that has once again cast doubts among party leaders that they are indeed backing the right horse.
Willard, of course, saw it coming. Four years ago he had the endorsements of over 200 state and county Republican officials as he attempted to administer a quick coup de grace
to the struggling McCain campaign by winning big in Baptist country. It didn’t work.
This time around with the support of the newly elected female governor of the state and not much else, he decided instead to run a much scaled-down effort here and concentrate his time, money and organization in the upcoming Florida Primary where his prospects appear much more favorable. This was not met favorably by his former supports who, quite properly, felt that he had slighted them. Many former Romney supporters and organizers voiced complaints but remained neutral allowing Mitt to enjoy a 12 point lead over Gingrich just days before the election. It all evaporated with the massive infusion of mega-bucks as Newt’s political action committee began to swing into action. Mitt decided to cut his looses for he does not need to win every Southern primary or caucus but he does, if he is to become a truly national candidate, must win somewhere in the South. So he took his lumps in the Palmetto State with an eye to the upcoming Florida contest.
The story here in South Carolina is the emergence not of Santorum, who finished well down in the pack despite the recent endorsements by fundamentalist religious organizations, but the rise instead of Newt Gingrich. There are three reasons, it appears to this commentator, for his sudden emergence.
First he can be seen as sort of a ‘favorite son’ inasmuch as the former House Speaker represented a district in neighboring Georgia. Second it is clear that the recent religious endorsements have not come in time for Santorum to make effective use of them. Time as well as money are needed to build an organization and gain a place on the stage. Gingrich, for reasons of greater familiarity in the region--if not the nation--therefore became the de jure “I am not the Mormon” of the moment. How long he can hold that position is unclear but one suspects not long for the Lutheran turned Baptist, turned Catholic (1) womanizer will not, it seems to me, remain long in the fundamentalist intestines but will rapidly be expelled. It is one thing to leave an established heresy in order to be ‘born again’ into Southern Baptism; it is heresy itself--in Southren eyes to reject Southern Baptism in order to embrace the ‘cult’ that is the Roman Catholic Church. Third was the timely infusion of cash in an otherwise strapped campaign. But what the emergence of Baby Huey demonstrates most clearly is not the pernicious influence of the citizens united decision but the fact that the idiot wrong has not yet been able to organize around a suitable alternative to the Mormon. What Citizens United accomplished last night was not so much to raise the spectre of Baby Huey once again astride the American political landscape as in the terrible days of yore but to keep the “I-am-not-the-Mormon” movement alive. I giving new life to bigotry and intolerance it has accomplished what its authors intended it to do, that is to keep the citizens divided.
1. See Newt Gingrich at Widepedia. Com