As the results of the Iowa caucuses dribbled in, Americans got to see how the GOP candidates greeted victory and defeat. Top vote-getter Mitt Romney was gracious toward Rick Santorum, who came in second by eight thin votes, but uninspiring as he pledged to get America back to work. Santorum pronounced, “Game on,” and then he hailed his Italian grandfather’s decision to leave Italy to dig coal if that’s what it took to bring his family to the United States.
Ron Paul, who came in third, saluted the work of his enthusiastic volunteers and credited his success to his role as a keeper of the flame of limited federal government. Fifth-place finisher Rick Perry told his supporters he would return to Texas to “assess” the race. The next morning, the Lone Star State governor tweeted that he was heading for South Carolina. Having won a disappointing 5 percent of the vote, Michele Bachmann clearly knew she would be leaving the campaign trail, but she had only good words about her Iowa experience.
And then there was Newt Gingrich — whose post-caucus remarks placed him in the Hall of Shame of sore losers. Gingrich, who placed a distant fourth, did praise Santorum for running a “great, positive campaign,” but only so that he could throw his Cheerios at Romney and Paul.
The former House speaker had taken to challenging Romney to pull TV spots that lampoon Gingrich. The spots were produced by an independent super political action committee run by Romney supporters. The problem is that it is illegal for a candidate to tell a super PAC what to do.
The best part: The anti-Gingrich spots have featured Newt in very public venues of his own choosing. No one slinked behind a bush to videotape Gingrich cozying up to Rep. Nancy Pelosi on a love seat so they could coo about global warming. He decided to make those ads.
Nobody forced Gingrich to go on “Meet the Press” and dismiss Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan as “right-wing social engineering.” That was his doing.
Gingrich never takes personal responsibility. When his campaign failed to garner the 10,000 signatures needed to put his name on the ballot in Virginia — where he lives — the candidate blamed a fraudulent signature-gatherer. When the GOP House voted 395-28 to fine Gingrich $300,000 after an ethics investigation, he blamed partisan rancor. But when Gingrich was on top in the polls, he credited his gifts as a brilliant political strategist.
When he lost Tuesday, it was Romney’s fault — for not stopping an independent super PAC from airing the Newter’s own words.
In New Hampshire on Wednesday, Gingrich repeated the new anti-Romney mantra on Iowa. Quoth Gingrich, “Three out of four Republicans repudiated Mitt Romney.”
I like to think that more than 8 in 10 Iowa Republicans repudiated Gingrich. And that made for a positive campaign.