South Carolina debate: Newt Gingrich fury at media

 

Mr Gingrich: ''I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that''

US Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich has angrily denied a report that he once wanted an "open marriage", strongly criticising the US media at the start of a key debate.

Mr Gingrich told CNN's debate host that even raising the issue was "as close to despicable as anything I can imagine".

He called the US media "destructive, vicious and negative".

The four remaining candidates appeared in a last-ditch debate before Saturday's South Carolina primary.

Mr Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum debated in Charleston after a dramatic day.

As Mr Gingrich gained on Mr Romney in the polls, an ex-wife revealed in an interview he wanted an "open marriage".

Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry pulled out of the race and Iowa said a vote mix-up meant Mr Romney had not won its caucuses.

Mr Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is the front-runner in the state-by-state race for the Republican Party's nomination to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama for the White House this November.

He is ahead of Mr Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, Christian conservative former Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

'Grandiose thoughts'

After Mr Gingrich's blistering opening, Mitt Romney's caution on the issue of his tax returns provided the most revealing moment.

Mr Romney: ''What I have, I earned. I worked hard, the American way''

Asked if he would follow his father's example and release 12 years of returns, Mr Romney - who is worth an estimated $200m (£130m) - said he would release "multiple years", but hesitated in his answer and drew jeers from the crowd.

"I'm not going to apologise for doing well," he said. "What I have, I earned."

Mr Gingrich, by contrast, was able to announce that his campaign had released his tax returns shortly before the debate began.

The candidates also clashed over healthcare and President Barack Obama's controversial reform law.

Mr Santorum said he doubted Mr Romney and Mr Gingrich would keep their promises to repeal the law, citing their previous support for similar legislation.

The former Pennsylvania senator said he had never supported the individual mandate, while Mr Gingrich and Mr Romney "played footsie with the left" on healthcare.

Analysis

At the end of a day full of twists and turns, it was perhaps inevitable that one of those twists would explode at the latest Republican debate, here in South Carolina. Newt Gingrich thundered with anger when the debate moderator asked about his second wife's allegation that Mr Gingrich once asked her to tolerate an open marriage, so he could maintain an affair with the woman who went on to become his third wife.

His rivals all diplomatically avoided the issue, conscious that the media is doing their work for them. Newt Gingrich has been enjoying a late surge in the polls here and seems to believe he can defeat the current Republican front runner, Mitt Romney.

But in a state with large numbers of socially conservative evangelical voters, stories about a candidate's troubled private life can have an effect. The debate had other lively moments, as the candidates all tried to score some last-minute points, in front of a noisy audience. Polls open on Saturday morning. If Mitt Romney wins here, his eventual nomination will look more certain than ever.

Mr Santorum - who adopted a combative tone throughout the debate - also questioned Mr Gingrich's time as House speaker, a time when he was a close associate of his rival.

"Sometimes you have these worrisome moments," he said, warning that Mr Gingrich could "pop off" at any time, in an echo of Mr Romney's earlier attacks that he was "unreliable".

Mr Gingrich was unapologetic, casting himself as a "rebel" during his congressional days, and arguing that he helped Republicans win a majority in the 1990s.

"You're right. I think grandiose thoughts." Mr Gingrich said. "This is a grandiose country"

Perry bows out

Mr Gingrich took the debate stage hours before ABC News broadcast the full details of an interview with his second wife, Marianne.

Despite poll numbers showing him gaining on Mr Romney, the long-time front-runner, his pitch to South Carolina's largely conservative and Christian electorate looked to be under threat by her testimony.

In an excerpt of her remarks on ABC News' Nightline programme, the former Mrs Gingrich says her ex-husband wanted her to share him with Callista Bisek, the woman who would become his third wife.

"He was asking to have an open marriage and I refused," she said.

A dramatic day on the campaign trail began with the news that Texas Governor Rick Perry had decided to quit - and endorse Mr Gingrich.

Rick Perry: "I know when it's time to make a strategic retreat"

When Mr Perry entered the race in August, he briefly shot to the front of the pack before gaffes and poor debate performances set him back.

The Texas governor told supporters in South Carolina on Thursday: "I've come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign.

"Therefore today I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich."

He called Mr Gingrich "a conservative visionary who can transform our country", adding: "Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?"

His departure follows on the heels of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and last month, Georgia businessman Herman Cain.

Mr Perry had faced calls in recent days to stand aside as rivals warned the conservative vote would fracture across the candidates, ultimately benefiting Mr Romney.

Thursday also saw the final results of the Iowa caucuses certified as a split decision between Mr Romney and Mr Santorum because of missing data.

Mr Romney had initially been declared the winner of the 3 January nominating contest, by a mere eight votes.

But the final count shows Mr Santorum ahead by 34 votes. No winner has been declared because the results from eight precincts are missing.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 184.

    @177 Actually his Sanctity Of Life act will define life with rights as starting from conception. So abortion would equate to murder

    also

    "The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs." Ron Paul

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 183.

    I find the constant mudsligging of this process distasteful, but at the end of the day it is effective in weeding out the weak. At the end of the day if you can't cope with the pressures of a primary race then how can you hope to cope with some of the world's most pressing issues like the banking crisis or world reccession. Whether you like it or not this process is tough but fair

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 182.

    So why do we Brits care about this? Well, this is down to the lack of major issues of debate in the UK or the identikit nature of our politicians. That said, the US races are much more entertaining and not often for the right reasons. Some of these candidates are insane. How can things like their personalities and issues like abortion or gay marriage be points of debate? Fix the economy!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 181.

    VOTE RON PAUL

    Ron Paul of Texas enjoys a national reputation as the premier advocate for liberty in politics today. Dr. Paul is the leading spokesman in Washington for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies based on commodity-backed currency.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 180.

    As usual, a disproportionate number (nay, a flood) of comments endorsing Ron Paul. Is this evidence of an astro-turfing campaign? How much does Ron Paul's campaign pay people to do this?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 179.

    #154
    "Of what interest is all this rubbish to British people?"

    When americans do not know which politicians govern foreign countries, we accuse them of being insular and arrogant. Are you suggesting that we should not take an interest in who might lead the most powerful nation on earth?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 178.

    154. Bollus
    Of what interest is all this rubbish to British people?
    The vast majority of Americans have no concept of the world outside America let alone the British political scene.
    How often they attend church or how many women they have slept with will have no influence on British life.
    ===

    Just look at the effects of US foreign policy over the years & you'll have the answer to your question.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 177.

    @172: Ron Paul does not want to merge the Church and State, He does not equate abortion with murder, he delivered more than 4,000 babies in his medical career which qualifies him to have a strong opinion about abortion, without needing to force his opinion down the throats of others, he is for the power of governing to be given back to the people themselves, he is for ending needless wars.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 176.

    Astroman

    Left or right ,how much heed is given to the millions of English people who pay a license fee and detest the sychophancy that is accredited to the ridiculous windsor pantomime ?

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 175.

    This is the same Newt Gingrich who last week ran an attack ad insulting his rival for being able to speak French?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 174.

    #154
    "Of what interest is all this rubbish to British people?"

    At this stage I think you are right. However when we get to the actual election it is of key importance, after all we need to know who will be dragging our country to another war on terror in the spirit of the "special relationship".

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 173.

    Why no report on Ron Paul?
    He is the only candidate that has any sensible policies, if you do not know about him go read. He is the only one not sponsored by the banking system and who is not corrupt.
    If you want the guy with the best hair cut to win then do what you like, but if you want the most honest and guy who will do what he says and actually cares about his country vote Ron Paul

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 172.

    A seemingly infamous side to Ron Paul:

    He is Anti-Abortion, Sanctity of Life act will make abortion = Murder
    He wants to overturn the 'Assault Weapons Ban'
    He wants a merge of Church and State. (The founding fathers were completely against this.)
    He wants to end US membership of the United Nations and WHO.

    What do you think?
    Is this too much to sacrifice for ending a war that's already over?

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 171.

    The most fascinating thing about this contest is the systematic refusal of the mainstream media to mention Ron Paul, despite results showing him to be one of the more popular candidates. A classic case of big business and the media trying to control democracy.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 170.

    @162.SpongyWhale

    BBC news is a party political broadcast for the Tory party, 24/7, that we all must pay for without choice.

    II couldn't disagree more thoroughly with this view does that somehow make the BBC unbiased. Or have they finally started to purge the left wing, state overpaid, left wing Labourites from the BBC? Surely not, all I see is red interviews without blues to argue back!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 169.

    On this occasion I would say that the media weren't as vicious as some of the republican policies.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 168.

    Whilst I accept the US election is big news can we PLEASE relegate this type of none-story to the Americas section until the actual candidates are confirmed and the election is underway! THIRD top story on the main page....REALLY?!?!?

  • rate this
    +42

    Comment number 167.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword springs to mind.
    Vicious smears seem to be acceptable when it's accusing an opponent of...speaking French!

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 166.

    Why nothing on Ron Paul? The other candidates are just "more of the same". Paul has something fresh to say.

    Censorship via media silence?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 165.

    Paul Adams and the BBC again do not give RON PAUL more than a nod to being alive.

    Blatant and brazen censored journalism. Take a bow Mr Adams.

 

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