Romney Newtered In South Carolina
So the results are in from the primary voting for America’s Most Racist Party™ in America’s Most Racist State™, and not surprisingly, the candidate making the most openly racist appeals won.
I got into quite the online discussion last night with someone insisting that we should fear Gingrich more than Romney. I disagree; while Romney really isn’t liked by most everyone, he’s not loathed the way Gingrich is in most places. I noted that I wouldn’t be surprised if turnout was up yesterday in South Carolina, given what was offered on the menu – appeals to states’ rights (Paul), appeals to stick-up-the-ass faux religiosity (Santorum), and not-even-veiled appeals to racial bigotry (Gingrich). You’d expect such a smorgasbord to really draw them out of the woodwork in the most reactionary state in the country, and it turns out this is exactly what happened – turnout was around 602,000, compared with 445,000 in 2008. But let’s look where those “extra” votes went – Romney improved his 2008 showing by about 100,000 votes, which still put him far back into second place. Gingrich bested him by about 70,000. Both scored more votes than winner John McCain did in 2008.
So what does it all mean? Well, I don’t think it’s all that complicated, really. I think what it means is that in the most reactionary state in the country, a lot of voters are motivated not by who they think is most likely to win a head-to-head matchup with the president, but by who they think is most likely to call him “ni**er” to his face, and Newt won that contest walking away. I’m sure the magic underwear didn’t help Romney any with the snake-handling crowd, either.
Should we be worried about this? Not particularly, I think. Turnouts in both Iowa and New Hampshire were about even with the apathetic turnout in 2008, probably because the concentration of crazy in those states simply isn’t nearly as high as in South Carolina. Sure, Newt may race-bait his way to further victories in primaries in the states of the old Confederacy, but that shit doesn’t play elsewhere. Add to it the man’s history of shooting himself in the foot at the worst possible moment, and this is definitely the guy we’d prefer to go up against in the general election. Because while Romney isn’t really liked, he’s not overtly offensive to many in the mushy middle. Gingrich, on the other hand, seems to think it’s his life mission to be as offensive as possible to as many as possible. And can you imagine evangelicals turning out in droves to support this guy in the general election? I mean, we know from experience that they will be instructed from the pulpit to “fall in line” once the nominee is chosen, no matter how unpalatable to the brethren that choice may be. But I can imagine quite a few of those folks just deciding to quietly sit at home on election day rather than going to the effort to show up and pull the lever for a serial adulterer whose fidelity to any particular church has been no better than his fidelity to his multiple spouses.
So, while it’s true that the crazy isn’t confined to the south, what’s needed to harness it varies a great deal around the country. God-botherers in the Midwest aren’t going to be motivated by code phrases like “food stamp president” in the way southern wingnuts will be, and Newt doesn’t have the religious fundamentalist chops to appeal to those folks the way he appeals to the bufords in South Carolina.
Go Newt! Whether you win the nomination or not, your continuing presence in the race can only help in delivering victory to Obama in November.