Note: I'm scheduled to appear on the Ed Schultz radio show today at 12:05 central time, talking about my 1996 book Newt Gingrich: Capitol Crimes and Misdemeanors (now available on Google Books). Please tune in.
Who won the debate last night? From a purely technical standpoint, Rick Santorum won the debate, but it may be too late for him to be taken seriously. Mitt Romney got his hits in, but Newt Gingrich looked like the frontrunner, he acted like the frontrunner, and he didn't get knocked down.
On NBC, Andrea Mitchell and other analysts were talking about Gingrich looking “presidential,” essentially because he didn't act like Newt Gingrich. Whenever the words “presidential” and “Gingrich” occur in a sentence that's not the punchline to a joke, it's a victory for Newt.
Romney lost his one advantage on the far right he had, on immigration, by agreeing with Newt on the Dream Act and by talking about the rather ridiculous idea of “self-deportation.” Appearing more moderate on immigration might help in Florida, but it will hurt Romney with Republicans elsewhere. It shows that Romney is desperate to win in Florida.
Of course, everything Romney said about Gingrich is completely true. Gingrich was in fact a lobbyist, and Gingrich has been “influencing peddling” his entire career.
In fact, Gingrich began influence peddling before he ever won an election. One of my favorite stories from my 1996 book Newt Gingrich: Capitol Crimes and Misdemeanors is how in 1977 (after two failed attempts at Congress), a group of Gingrich's donors gave him $15,000 (that's over $50,000 in today's dollars) for a family vacation in Europe. They did it under the guise of Nomohan, Ltd., a limited partnership created solely to invest in Newt's proposal to write a futuristic novel which he would “research” in Europe. That's a lot of money for a vacation, especially for a man who never made more than $15,400 a year teaching at West Georgia College. The man who organized Gingrich's novel vacation deal, his friend Chester Roush, received more than $12.6 million in federal subsidies for his real estate ventures, and Gingrich twice intervened with federal officials to make personal appeals for his friend to receive government money.
So when Romney accuses Gingrich of “influence peddling,” it's not a futuristic novel, it's history—not the kind of “history” that Freddie Mac pays you $1.6 million to discuss, but real history.
Crossposted at DailyKos.