I’m convinced that if you did one of those horrific “word cloud” infographics of political op-eds for the last few months, one word that would stick out like a sore-thumb would be inequality. One of the most read posts on The Progress Report is Hayden Munro’s excellent piece on the subject.
It’s interesting then to see how the issue is literally transforming the race for the Republican presidential nomination in the US.
In just five days, Newt Gingrich managed to turn a 10 point lead in the polls from Mitt Romney into a 12 point victory in South Carolina. I think that’s what David Cunliffe would call “a good old fashioned shellacking”. But it seems that the momentum is bigger than just South Carolina. The latest polls in Florida have Gingrich ahead of Romney, the former front-runner, by 9 points. Romney is now on the defensive, hitting back at Gingrich in such a scattergun approach it’s just making him look desperate.
So how has Gingrich managed this incredible comeback? This video sets the scene. Gingrich has tapped into a particularly dodgy aspect of his past, his time leading the investment group Bain Capital, his tax rate (15%, much lower than most Americans) and just how filthy rich he is.
It was not a strategy he would have come to easily. Not only does Gingrich have his own fortune, but saying these sorts of things has really put some noses out of joint in the right wing commeteriat. As sumarised by the Huffington Post…
On Jan. 13, the Wall Street Journal editorial page denounced Gingrich for launching “crude and damaging caricatures of modern business and capitalism.” Rush Limbaugh compared Gingrich to Elizabeth Warren. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who boasts a reputation as a crucial Tea Party power broker, accused Gingrich of sounding like a Democrat.
Despite these criticisms, Gingrich’s standing in South Carolina polls rose as his attacks on Bain Capital grew stronger. On Jan. 17, Talking Points Memo’s Poll Average pegged Gingrich at 24.6 percent, with Romney at 33.2 percent. On Jan. 19, Gingrich was at 33.9 percent and Romney was at 28.8 percent. On primary day, Gingrich was at 35.7 percent and Romney was at 26.4 percent.
Despite being blasted by the right wing media, and being severely under-funded and with a lack of high profile surrogates, Newt Gingrich’s message is really hitting a nerve with the (registered Republican) electorate. People don’t like the inequitable business practices that Mitt Romney has engaged in, and they’re voting with their feet.
Another good read on the subject is this article by Christopher Lamb, also on Huffington Post: ‘South Carolina: An Embarrassment of Riches’.
Will this message get wider resonance? If so, it does seem to be a huge opportunity for parties of the left, worldwide.