While Newt Gingrich failed to win Thursday’s CNN GOP debate, he showed moments that will reach voters who are still not ready to embrace Mitt Romney.
Through the early part of the action, Newt was involved in a back-and-forth with Romney. This did not serve him well.
Newt’s decision to stay out of the healthcare battle was perhaps his best decision of the night. Following this exchange, the debate finally shifted to a discussion based more on the issues and provided for some of Newt’s best moments. It gave him an opportunity to step away from the one-on-one battle and refocus his efforts on answering issue questions.
Call me a nerd, but I am fascinated with the prospect of a rejuvenated space program in the United States, particularly if it is driven by the private sector. While many GOP primary voters would not be thrilled with the government's spending billions for space exploration and moon colonies, there is an aspect of that argument that still has legs with voters. Many Americans still want to see the U.S. be the best, particularly when comparisons are being made to China and Russia.
Reforming the tax code and budgeting continue to be areas where he is able to connect with voters. Gingrich continued to propose an alternative 15% flat tax and 0% capital gains tax that he insists will spur economic recovery. At the core of the GOP, voters still favor candidates that offer the lowest, simplest taxes, and demonstrate an effective record of balancing budgets.
He also delivered an effective message with respect to Israeli-Palestinian relations. Gingrich proposed a scenario during that debate that asked the question of voters, how would you react if rockets were launched into your home county from you neighbor? Additionally, he proposed moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While I personally disagree with many of his positions on this subject, a strong pro-Israel position plays very well with a Republican audience.
Finally, for every charge leveled against his Republican credentials, Gingrich is able to list five facts that bolster his conservative case. He is at his best when promoting his credentials, not attempting attacks against other candidates (not to be confused with his attacks against the media). His response to the question about his ability to defeat President Obama continues to be strong. He continues to effectively make the point that an election about big and dramatic choices is the best way to defeat the incumbent. Somehow, he has a strange ability to make voters believe he can do it, even if the national polls suggest something different.
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