Video: Gingrich Calls For Conservative Consolidation
Former Speaker backs off of attacks on Romney's record at Bain Capital, instead calling for hardline conservatives to pull together to better GOP's chances at beating Obama.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich brought his message to the Palmetto State on Wednesday in hopes of revitalizing his campaign after it faltered in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Gingrich, who had used frontrunner Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital against him prior to Wednesday, backed off his portrayal of the former Massachusetts governor as a corporatist during campaign stop at the Marriott Conference Center in Spartanburg.
Even one member of the audience at the Marriott questioned Gingrich about his using Bain to draw contrasts between he and Romney.
Dean Glossop, a U.S. Army reservist, implored Gingrich to go after Romney on his centrist history, rather than his record at Bain, telling him Gingrich he believed he had "missed the target" on Romney.
Gingrich quickly agreed with Glossop, acknowledging that making light of his rival's business record in such a way was a poor strategy, especially given President Barack Obama's reputation among conservatives for evoking anger through conflict theory rhetoric.
“I agree with you,” Gingrich said. “It’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect."
Afterward, Glossop, who said if he had to vote today he'd vote for social conservative Rick Santorum, clarified why he challenged the former Speaker about Bain and Romney.
"It's minutia compared the real problems he should be focusing on that Romney has," Glossop said. "Romney is putting himself out as a true conservative, and there's all sorts of evidence that he isn't."
Glossop admitted he was pleasantly surprised by Gingrich's reversal, but said the only way Gingrich would get his vote is if he were to pull away from Santorum by 10 points or more, signaling a growing sentiment among political pundits and potential voters alike — that if Romney is going to be stopped, it can only happen with a coalescence of the social conservative voters.
On Wednesday, Gingrich submitted to listeners a practical and strategic reason to vote for him. Simply put, Gingrich said, it will take a conservative with glaring contrasts to Obama to defeat the president, despite the prevailing conventional wisdom that Romney, with his moderate conservative message, represented a more realistic shot at unseating the incumbent.
"We have to consolidate behind a conservative or we're going to end up nominating a moderate," Gingrich said. "I think it is very hard for a moderate to defeat Barack Obama, and impossible for a moderate to change Washington D.C."
Gingrich took his message of consolidation down the road to The Beacon restaurant just moments later, this time mentioning Romney by name.
"The fact is, we have to consolidate conservatives to beat Gov. Romney," Gingrich said. "The contrast won't be clear enough, the issues won't be clear enough, and it'll just be a jumble."
Sean Maher, a Charlotte resident who trekked down to the Upstate with his 13-year-old son to see Gingrich, said the former Speaker, not Santorum, represented conservatives' most realistic shot at consolidation.
"I think Santorum dropped severely when he went to New Hampshire," Maher said. "People started to realize that we're splitting the conservative vote. Here is where we have to beat Romney. If you don't beat Romney in South Carolina, he'll turn into a train you just can't stop."
Gingrich himself didn't shy away from assigning a weighty significance to South Carolina's primary.
"South Carolina, the 21st is going to be, I think, the most important single primary of the year," he said. "This is the decisive moment for the Republican party to decide who it is, and to decide what we've learned from the past."