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SC Voters 'Rethink' Persuasive Gingrich

GOP voters in Palmetto State warm to the former House Speaker.

Persuasive — that's how many South Carolina voters describe GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. 

"I think that's an understatement," Ed Bennett of West Ashley said Monday, after attending a Charleston town hall featuring Gingrich.

While Gingrich has stances on several issues that didn't already jibe with Bennett's beliefs, the White House hopeful was able to explain away many of the differences. Bennett called this "more of a learning process."

Gingrich, who was put in the "left for dead" category in the crowded Republican Party field just two months ago, is soaring in the polls both nationally and locally.

A poll conducted Monday by InsiderAdvantage for the Augusta Chronicle showed Gingrich holding a dominanting lead for the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary. Gingrich's support of 38 percent was more than double former Gov. Mitt Romney's 15 percent and businessman Herman Cain's 13 percent, according to the poll of 519 likely primary voters.

Two months ago, Gingrich was polling in single-digits — and in fifth place.

Gingrich, according to voters Patch talked to in recent days, is winning support by pushing many conservative causes, questioning assumptions and sending a positive message that includes hope for the country.

The candidate is making a big bet on South Carolina, . In addition to the Greenville state headquarters, Gingrich has opened offices in Charleston and Bluffton.

His grassroots efforts are being led by state Rep. Joshua Putnam in the Upstate, former Jon Huntsman state field director DeLinda Ridings in the Midlands, Myrtle Beach Tea Party leader Gerri McDaniel in the Pee Dee and Tea Party veteran Chris Horne in Charleston. Joanne Jones, vice chairwoman for the Charleston Tea Party, is also on board under the leadership of state director Adam Waldeck and policy director Vince Haley.

This week, he's spending three days in the Palmetto State, crossing from Charleston to Greenville.

Unlike other candidates who often repeat stump speeches and talking points again and again at each stop, Gingirch's often-extemporaneous diatribes fail to fit into easy soundbites.

If applause is any indication on what voters are reacting to from the former Speaker, here is a long laundry list of his hits during Monday's town hall in Charleston:

  • Defunding the National Labor Relations Board until a new board is seated.
  • "The government is subject to you."
  • Defunding cities that declare themselves as "sanctuary cities" for illegal immigrants.
  • Defending the United States as part of the president's role. 
  • "Dramatically shrink the Department of Education." 
  • Students should get the grades they earn and teachers should have the right to discipline unruly children. 
  • "There's no good bills at page 2,600."
  • Citing Obama's debt-forgiveness plan for college students as ineffective.
  • "I don't think you can fix (the EPA)." 
  • "If you don't have common sense, don't apply here (at new Environmental Solutions Agency)." 
  • "Waterboarding, by every technical rule, is not torture." 
  • "We're not going to be intimidated in not defending the United States of America by the ACLU." 
  • Using litigation reform to ebb medical costs.
  • Establishing English as the official language of the U.S. government. 
  • Ensuring immigrants gaining citizenship have "a serious understanding" of U.S. history.
  • Making deportation easier and not giving illegal immigrants the same rights as American citizens.
  • "There's no illegal worker without an illegal employer." 
  • "(A 12.5 percent corporate rate) would actually mean that GE would pay taxes."
  • Abolishing the "Death Tax."
  • Repealing Dodd-Frank.
  • Replacing the Food and Drug Administration. 
  • Putting a sign behind him after the inauguration that reads "America is open for business again."
  • Saying Rep. Tim Scott was on his "short list" of running mates.
  • "We have no opponents except Barack Obama." 
  • "We will be back. You ain't seen nothing yet."

Wooing 'traditional' South Carolina voters

It seems voters in the state , which created an attack point from fellow conservatives, and to him as the viable conservative leader in the age of the Tea Party, which scorns political establishment and social agendas in much of the country. The Palmetto State version of the Tea Party .

South Carolina Republicans appear to view his establishment in the Republican Party and his values — which lists to enforce the right for medical professionals to decline medical procedures against their religious beliefs — as assets.

"People in South Carolina are traditional and that's what they want," said College of Charleston freshman Adam DeLoach, who heard Gingrich at the college's recent Bully Pulpit series and Monday at Congressman Tim Scott's First in the South Town Hall series featuring Gingrich in downtown Charleston. 

Comments that Gingrich is too entrenched in the establishment or too socially conservative don't come "from the people that do belong to the conservative movement," said Linda Ensor of Summerville, who belongs to the Glenn Beck-inspired 9-12 movement. 

"You know who he is," Ensor added. "His skeletons are out of the closet already."

"I don't think it's going to derail him," fellow LowCountry 9.12 member Dana Eiser said. 

Gingrich asking voters to 'rethink'

Nearly every answer Gingrich gave during Monday's town hall in Charleston began with asking the audience to "rethink" a foreign or domestic policy or agency — just like he always asks audiences to be "with" him, instead of just "for" him.

Unlike many other candidates who have urged for change , Gingrich called America's current issues "a little bit of a mess." And voters responded.

"It's refreshing; it's hope," Eiser said, adding she liked hearing the positive. 

Brent Rutherford, who recently moved to the Columbia rea from Alabama, said he likes Cain, but is leaning more and more heavily to Gingrich each day, he told Patch after a recent event in Columbia.

"I like Cain because he's a straight-shooter. He has a vitality, there's just something there that nobody else has that he does," he said. "Romney is OK. But he bores me. (Texas Gov.) Perry's just like Bush, just dumber. (Minnesota Congresswoman) Bachmann couldn't possibly win; neither could (U.S. Rep.) Ron Paul, even though I agree with a lot he says. 

"But I'm coming around to Newt and I'll probably vote for him because he's smart and he's got real ideas," Rutherford continued. "And bottom line, I think, is that Newt is probably the closest of these candidates to being a real, true Reagan conservative. And that's what I want, that's what I want more than anything."

For college freshman DeLoach, seeing Gingrich speak at Monday's sealed his primary vote — taking it away from Romney.

Like Ensor and Eiser, he found Gingrich's focus on the future, rather than the negative, "very uplifting," adding that he had great appeal to the younger demographics of the Republican party.

"It's not just about persuasion. It's about what he has to back it up," DeLoach said.

Strong debate performances leading the way

Columbia-area resident Connie Dierks-Hassler has been one of those voters who has steadily been won over by Gingrich's debate performances.

Many political observers are quick to point out that Gingrich has been able to parlay his debate appearances into higher poll numbers, and the candidate has said so himself.

College of Charleston political science adjunct professor Jeri Cabot also attributed his success to strong debate performances.

But don't discount the failing campaigns of previous challengers to favorite Mitt Romney, Cabot said. The race to be the . But early support for Perry, Bachmann and Cain has failed for reasons ranging from debate gaffes to potential sexual infidelities.

"We're still in the phase of 'anybody but Romney,'" Cabot said, adding the primary is still Romney's to lose. "Romney has done well at every debate, too."

When Dierks-Hassler first began paying attention to the race, she had no clear favorite, but that all changed after about her fourth debate. 

"It just seemed clear to me that he had a better grasp of the issues than the others, and he never seemed to really get pulled in to the name-calling," said Dierks-Hassler. "He just seemed to be really sure of himself — and I agreed with him. He's brilliant."

Just as Gingrich's overconfidence has persuaded many voters, some fear that it may be arrogance that dissuades others. 

"That part of his personality is something that he may have to work on a little bit," West Ashley voter Bennett said. 

stanley seigler December 06, 2011 at 07:30 PM
@SDR as you might expect we have small disagreements...first i am not (in case you are not being facetious) a professed compassionate...nor a fan of organized religion... now to politics re: "...unleashing the individuals compassion?" to date all an unregulated free market unleashed is GREED...results: the 1929 depression and the 2008 recession. as said in other PATCH threads...the unregulated free market only works where there are no bad guys and all work for the common good...eg, nirvana. re: Government spends 86 cents to deliver $1 of services Charities spend 15 cents to deliver $1 of services. even if yo figs are right (provide ref)...charities could not provide many of the services...eg: fire/police protection; fair and appropriate education for all; and the military. another cost comparison, quote NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/opinion/13krugman.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print [CLIPs] Medicare actually saves money...a lot of money...compared with relying on private insurance companies...Medicare spending per beneficiary rose more than 400 percent from 1969 to 2009...But inflation-adjusted premiums on private health insurance rose more than 700 percent over the same period...And then there’s the international evidence. The United States has the most privatized health care system in the advanced world; it also has, by far, the most expensive care, without gaining any clear advantage in quality for all that spending. [end clips]
stanley seigler December 06, 2011 at 08:36 PM
ps @SDR "Marxism and Christianity similar? Thats a bit of a stretch." for sure a light years spiritual stretch...no stretch at all re social systems. actually Christianity is much more socialistic than marxism...Christianity comes close to communism with a come to Jesus movement... some believe that "the teachings of Jesus Christ compel Christians to support communism as the ideal social system"...but certainly NOT a spiritual system.
stanley seigler December 07, 2011 at 02:35 AM
FYI stuff "In general the platform expressed : a strong government to regulate industry, protect the middle and working classes, and carry on great national projects..." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Party_(United_States,_1912) BO's platform...no teddy roosevelt's bull moose progressive party's...who was called a socialist...the GOPs of TR's day were on the wrong side of history...as are the GOP-tpers of today...
George Grace December 07, 2011 at 03:44 AM
The Progressive Party died after FDR, why I don't know but I'm reading about that now. I think FDR co-opted their platform for the Democrats. It's a great tradition in American history buy one that we definitely don't need right now. It would take votes away from Obama. The Occupy movement is in the tradition of the Progressive Party.
stanley seigler December 07, 2011 at 07:08 AM
@George Grace "The Occupy movement [OM] is in the tradition of the Progressive Party." agree...just wish the OM had a MLK...a cesar chavez..or RFK... opine: perhaps BO will be that leader...in addition to his political skills, he has the common good as a goal. ps. i too will read more re the progressive movement.

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