Thursday, January 19, 2012

As Gingrich Thanks Palin; Was This Romney's Fatal Campaign Error?

On Greta Van Susteran's program  after the second SC debate. Newt Gingrich twice thanked Sarah Palin for her support and said it was a key factor in his remarkable rise in polling in the state. 

As Gingrich rightly said, few would have given him any hope of success after New Hampshire, and the media was crowing Romney as the nominee at that point.

Gingrich highlighted a number of things which contributed to his turning around a 16 point deficit to, on latest polling, a six point lead. 

These were; his first debate performance where he took Juan Williams to task for playing the race card, Rick Perry's endorsement, Rush Limbaugh's supportive analysis, and  twice mentioned, Sarah Palin's advice that she would vote for him in South Carolina if she were able to. 

In addition Todd Palin's endorsement got things rolling. Even Blind Bob could see that, given Palin's often positive comments about Newt, Todd was a surrogate endorser for her.

PPP Polling, the Dem/Daily Kos pollster, whilst noting Gingrich's sudden rise, ascribed it to other factors and said that one of them definitely was not a Palin endorsement, as they found that more people were less likely to vote for a candidate she endorsed. 

That the Washington Post found exactly the opposite, and that by PPP's logic for Newt to be ahead he must have been doing even better than reported. As by PPP's "findings" he would have lost some support after Sarah endorsed him-which is nonsense of course.

Perhaps equally as important as the rise in polling support, not only for SC but for the campaign ahead and the general election, was, as Gingrich described it, "after Sarah announced her support we received an influx of volunteers and support really accelerated, she has a significant following."

After Palin announced she would not be a candidate Gingrich straight away set up a liaison contact with Todd Palin and they have had a continuous dialogue so there was an interplay of personalities at the highest level. 

That this was bearing fruit was obvious from the regular positive comments Palin made about Gingrich on her Fox slots from time to time. What was also apparent was the lack of a similar positivity about Romney.

People forget that Gingrich agreed to do the proposed "Trump debate" which Romney pulled out of and which Palin supported. Gingrich twice announced he would consider Palin in his administration as well. The first time he canvassed that he would consider her for the vice-presidency, and this week, for a cabinet post.

Contrast this with Romney. There has not been, at least publicly that I have seen, any remarks by Romney that he would consider Palin for a position, or even consult with her on an ad hoc basis in her recognized field of expertise, energy development. 

Certainly Romney has not been negative about Palin, but the contrast between Gingrich's far sighted reaching out, and Romney's neglect of a powerful presence in the party-one who can make or break candidates-is striking.

This neglect of Palin, if she had endorsed him he would be miles ahead by now, may be the biggest mistake Romney has made in this campaign. 

In the second debate the candidates were asked what they would do differently if they could start the campaign over again. The usual bromides followed, but if Romney considered the poll reversal in South Carolina, he might have truthfully said "I would have reached out to Sarah Palin." It is clearly far too late for that now, which Romney may well regret in retrospect.

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