Something happened on the way to the coronation. The Republican political establishment had all but crowned Mitt Romney their champion.
But then, South Carolina Republicans had their say and they declared loudly and clearly that they did not see it that way.
The non-Romney candidates won a very large majority of the votes yesterday in South Carolina.
As the old saying goes, vox populi, vox dei. The voice of the people is the voice of God. Ignore it at your peril.
Given a choice between a milquetoast moderate and a fire-breathing dragon South Carolina Republican voters chose the latter. Maybe they knew what many of us have not yet fully grasped. According to Chinese astrology the Year of the Dragon will soon be upon us.
If there is anything to this astrology, the pundits should have been asking themselves which candidate is more like a dragon. That would be Newt Gingrich.
Jay Cost writes in the Weekly Standard that Gingrich won because he spoke truth to power. He spoke what was on the mind of conservative voters.
In Cost’s words: “Conservatives are very frustrated, and rightfully so. Their feeling is that they play by the rules – they work hard, pay their taxes, raise their kids right – but what do they get for it? Their values are mocked on television and the movies, the media castigates them as a bunch of extremists, they pay taxes while half of the country does not, and the Obama administration took to demagoguing them virtually from day one of his tenure.”
Gingrich has a lot of baggage; he has expressed opinions that have been decidedly unconserative. Yet, he won decisively because he took the fight to Barack Obama, to the Obamaphile media and to the Republican establishment.
The South Carolina results show us that Republican voters are not married to ideology. They voted for an ideological non-conformist.
They rejected the idea that only a moderate can win over the independent voters who are said to be the deciding factor in national elections. They are fed up with being tarred as racists. And they are even more fed up with the pseudo-intellectuals who call them stupid.
They want someone to walk on a stage and breathe fire. They saw that quality in Newt Gingrich and they rallied to his candidacy.
If you want to know why Romney lost, just listen to his concession speech. It showed the tinniest of tin ears. Showing a singular lack of grace Romney returned to the old idea that when Newt Gingrich criticized Bain Capital he was attacking capitalism.
It makes sense that Romney would say this. The Republican establishment has been attacking Gingrich on these grounds for the past two weeks. To little avail.
Unfortunately, when you say what everyone else is saying you sound more like an echo than a choice.
Newt Gingrich won because he went on the offensive. When he started criticizing Mitt Romney he showed that he had the strength and the energy and the fire to champion the Republican Party.
I mentioned a while back that when I saw Romney’s first interview with Brett Baier I thought that he had a glass jaw. His failure to respond to the criticisms coming at him from Gingrich and Santorum proved the point... for now, at least.
For all of the analysis of the election people have overlooked a crucial factor. The election will be decided by who best captures the spirit of the time.
As of today, it seems that Newt Gingrich is embodying the spirit of the Year of the Dragon.