Three quick thoughts about the Republican race

Flag of the Cayman Islands

Three quick observations about the state of the Republican presidential campaign:

• It’s been a very bad week for Mitt Romney. First came his peevish debate performance Monday night. Then came his admission that his tax rate is half that of ordinary Americans, followed by the revelation that he parks a great deal of his wealth in the Cayman Islands.

But one thing the media are unlikely to back down on is their insistence that he’s “two for two” going into Saturday’s South Carolina primary, even though we’ve known since Jan. 6 that Rick Santorum may have beaten him in the Iowa caucuses.

Now the Des Moines Register reports that the best numbers we’re ever going to get show Santorum ahead of Romney by 34 votes. Apparently the votes from eight precincts have been lost, so we’ll never know exactly who won.

Still, the media’s insistence that Romney had “won” Iowa by eight votes was never based on anything more than a provisional count that crumbled within hours. If it was all right to report that Romney won Iowa then, it’s certainly all right to say Santorum won Iowa now.

Does it matter? No. But it was the media that told us relentlessly and breathlessly for many months that it did matter. So surely it matters that Romney apparently came in a narrow second, eh?

• Will Fox News allow Sarah Palin to take part in its post-debate spin tonight now that she has essentially endorsed Newt Gingrich for president? Tune in and see.

• I thought it was crystal-clear that Gingrich was being racially provocative when he got into his food-stamp exchange with Juan Williams on Monday night, and I’m amazed by those who refuse to see it that way. So I was delighted to see this report from the road in today’s New York Times, which ends:

“I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for putting Mr. Juan Williams in his place,’’ she said.

The audience burst into sustained applause.

Any questions? And don’t miss Charles Pierce: “What Newt Gingrich is doing down here is running a campaign that is pure George Corley Wallace, straight out of 1968 and 1972.”

Trying to track down an old Gingrich outburst

Newt Gingrich

I had hoped to stir up a little controversy this week over something Newt Gingrich said a long time ago. But unless someone out there in Media Nation has better documentation than I do, I’m afraid I’m going to fall short.

Here’s what I’m talking about. On Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14, 1994, I was among three reporters from the Boston Phoenix who covered the Republican State Convention in Springfield. (Also on hand were Al Giordano and Bob Keough.) On Saturday, Gingrich, then well on his way to becoming speaker, delivered the keynote address.

I recall sitting in slack-jawed amazement as Gingrich offered some hate-filled words about disease-ridden Haitians invading our shores while Bill Clinton did nothing about it. (The AIDS epidemic seemed to be centered in Haiti in its early days.) Unfortunately, no one wrote it up according to the online archives I searched.

As best as I can tell, neither the Boston Globe nor the Boston Herald bothered to cover Gingrich’s speech. Neither did the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, though it did quote then-congressman Peter Blute, who introduced Gingrich, as saying, “He energized the base of the party to get out there and work hard for the candidates.”

The Springfield Sunday Republican offered up a few soundbites from Gingrich — but nothing on Haiti and AIDS, as the story focused mainly on Gingrich’s praise for then-governor Bill Weld. “What makes Gov. Weld so different is he understands the obligation not to repair it, not to raise taxes to pay for it, not to prop it up, but to replace the welfare state,” the Republican quoted Gingrich as saying.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton got a little more incendiary, with this:

Gingrich also attacked congressional Democrats for what he called, “a provision in the crime bill that establishes a racial quota for murderers,” referring to a section seeking to determine if members of one racial group are being convicted for murder more than others.

But alas, still nothing on Haitians.

I thought I must have written something. So last week I visited the Boston Public Library, where I looked up the issue of the Phoenix that was published the Thursday after the convention. And there was not a word about it. Apparently we had made the decision to cover the event for background purposes on the grounds that no one wanted to read what we had to say five days after the fact. Of course, this being 1994, we weren’t blogging the convention. So if it didn’t appear in the paper, well, it didn’t appear.

In an ironic twist — as Gingrich and Mitt Romney battle it out for the Republican presidential nomination — is that one of the stars of the convention was Romney, who was just beginning his campaign against Sen. Ted Kennedy.

It’s possible that I’ve got a notebook in the attic. But finding it would be a huge challenge, and then I’d have to decipher my handwriting from more than 17 years ago. It’s also possible that I did something with it later in the campaign. But I doubt it, and eliminating that possibility would require several hours with microfilm.

So there you have it — a tantalizing tidbit about Gingrich, just out of reach, less than a week before the Iowa caucuses. If anyone remembers this or has a newspaper clipping, I would love to hear from you.

Photo (cc) by Gage Skidmore and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Live-blogging tonight’s debate

If you’re interested — and even if you’re not — I’ll be live-blogging tonight’s Republican presidential debate, which begins at 9 p.m. on the Fox News Channel.

My apologies to those who subscribe to Media Nation by email. You may want to turn it off for the next few hours, as you will receive an email every time I update. The simplest solution is to send a blank email to media_nation-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com. You can always join again later.

9:08 p.m. A little bit of a minefield for Newt Gingrich coming out of the box. He negotiated it pretty skillfully, although his saying that he teaches generals “the art of war” was laugh-out-loud funny.

9:51. Gingrich is mangling Jefferson and Marbury v. Madison. He says he understands it better than lawyers. Good luck with that.

9:53. I am so sick of listening to Bachmann and Santorum I could scream. At least watching Perry trying to negotiate a simple sentence is entertaining.

9:57. Perry managed to name three Supreme Court justices. Let the bandwagon start rolling again.

9:59. I’m bailing on the live-blog, and will be live-tweeting the second half of the debate here.