Let’s just skip the evenhanded pleasantries and fast-forward to the heart of the matter: Newt Gingrich flat-out won Monday’s Republican presidential debate in South Carolina — and not only did Gingrich win, but we think he turned in an all-time epic performance.
It’s in this context, then, that we combed through Newt’s Myrtle Beach extravaganza to produce the definitive Gingrich Guide to Dominant Debating that we now offer up for your consideration.
WARM UP BEFORE THE DEBATE
As dusk settled Monday evening prior to the 9 p.m. debate, 350 members of the Faith and Freedom Coalition sat in a large, heated tent outside the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and listened to all five remaining Republican candidates give their stump speeches. Gingrich entered the tent late and spoke last, and he wasted no time in dropping some big bombs on front-runner Mitt Romney.
“Newt Gingrich, arriving about the time the event was scheduled to end, made the most pointed argument to a conservative gathering for why he, not Mitt Romney, should be the nominee,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “‘I want to be very direct for a couple minutes,’ he said. ‘Unless a conservative wins on Saturday, we’re going to end up with a moderate nominee who in my judgment will have a very, very hard time defeating Barack Obama.”
NEVER, EVER COWER TO A MODERATOR
Fox News commentator and debate moderator Juan Williams asked Gingrich a loaded question premised on a prickly assertion: that Newt had offended the African-American community by previously suggesting poor students should do light janitorial work at their schools in order to earn some money.
Not surprisingly, Gingrich didn’t agree with the underlying assertion — and he let Williams know about it.
WILLIAMS: “Can’t you see that this is viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans?”
GINGRICH: “No. I don’t see that.”
WILLIAMS: “I have to tell you my Twitter account has been inundated by all races, who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities. … It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people.”
GINGRICH: “Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history. I know among the politically correct you are not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.”
The exchange earned Gingrich the only standing ovation of the evening for an individual candidate.
INFUSE RESPONSES WITH SUBSTANTIVE POLICY
A lack of substantive ideas in debates can doom a presidential candidacy (see: Perry, Rick), so for goodness’s sake go all-out to prove to the policy wonks that you darned well know what you’re talking about!
From National Review Online’s The Corner blog: “Newt Gingrich won the debate. America faces the prospect of national bankruptcy because of a federal welfare state that was started by FDR with Social Security. Gingrich in this debate laid out an achievable plan for transforming Social Security into a system that liberates Americans from government dependency rather than forcing them deeper into it. It is ironic for other Republicans to argue that the federal government cannot afford to roll back the welfare state. It is at the very core of what the next president must do.”
EMPLOY OBSCURE HISTORICAL REFERENCES. REPEAT.
This, of course, is a Newt Gingrich specialty. When employed appropriately, the tactic can energize the audience and stun opponents.
Newt’s best random blast-from-the-past on Monday: “We’re in South Carolina. South Carolina in the Revolutionary War had a young 13-year-old named Andrew Jackson. He was sabred by a British officer and wore a scar his whole life. Andrew Jackson had a pretty clear-cut idea about America’s enemies: Kill them.”