In light of the drubbing Mitt Romney received Saturday at the hands of Newt Gingrich, failed Presidential candidate and Romney surrogate Tim Pawlenty asserted today that Newt Gingrich can’t beat Obama.
The dramatic increase in voter turnout in South Carolina’s Republican primary (up 35% in 2012 from 2008) tells us otherwise. This morning’s news about Gingrich’s 9% lead in Florida from Rasmussen Reports confirms the trend. At the moment, the energy in the Republican race for the nomination is behind Gingrich.
As I’ve noted in this space previously, there are plenty of reasons for the Tea Party to doubt Gingrich’s record as much as Romney’s. But the Romney surrogates who focus on alleged electability problems are missing the key point of this battle.
Voters in South Carolina were well aware of Gingrich’s shortcomings. Yet they voted for him in part because, as Ann Coulter notes disapprovingly, they want someone who can take the battle to Obama.
If Governor Pawlenty wants to make the case why tea partiers should vote for Romney he should focus on the much more fertile ground and explain–if he can–why Romney policies are more in alignment with the tea party’s core values of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and constitutionally limited government than Gingrich’s.
As it stands now, Pawlenty’s argument is just “white noise” — an irritating sound in the background you just want to go away.
Whether Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, or even Rick Santorum or Ron Paul secure the Republican nomination, this much is clear to me based on the tremendous turnout in South Carolina. Whoever the Republican Party nominates will defeat President Obama in November, 2012, provided they earn the support of the Tea Party movement.
Michael Patrick Leahy is the editor of the Voices of the Tea Party e-book series, co-founder of the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, and co-organizer of Election Day Tea Party 2012. His new book,Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement, will be published by Broadside Books in spring, 2012. He can be reached on Twitter at @michaelpleahy .