Despite bad press pertaining to his waffling over the intensity of his attacks toward GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney – and lukewarm receptions in the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary –former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich arrived in South Carolina with characteristic bravado and energy.
In grand cinematic style, Gingrich and members of his staff, descended the steps from the doors of the South Carolina Statehouse last Thursday, to greet a cheering crowd after a rousing endorsement from former Oklahoma Republican Congressman J.C. Watts.
Gingrich’s address departed from the usual stump speeches expected during such a tight campaign schedule. At the rally, co-hosted by the National Association of Home Builders, entitled “Rally for Home Ownership”, Gingrich reflected on the value of owning a home and his proposals to re-energize the struggling housing market.
After waxing on what home ownership meant in his and Callista’s upbringing, he spoke about its ideal.
“And I just want to say that those who live in high rise apartment buildings; writing for fancy newspapers in the middle of town after they ride the metro; who don’t understand that for most Americans, the ability to buy a home; to have their own property; to have a sense of belonging; is one of the greatest achievements in their life,” said Gingrich.
“And it makes them feel like they’re good, solid, citizens. It gives them a place to root their children, and their grandchildren and have a better future.”
Gingrich continued with his short term plans for executive orders on the day of his inauguration.
“The number one thing that we can do that will be relatively easy –that would start turning around the housing market and start turning around the economy overnight – is real simple, repeal the Dodd-Frank bill and you immediately… (applause) …to pass three repeals, to repeal Obamacare that’s killing small business; to repeal Dodd-Frank that’s hurting small banks; and repeal Sarbanes-Oxley… (applause)”
The diverse audience, a combination of Newt Gingrich supporters and attendees from a non-partisan coalition assembled by the NAHB, energetically received Gingrich’s appeal.
Rick Judson, Second Vice Chairman of the Board of NAHB, reiterated the problems faced by homebuilders and homeowners saying,
“the exotic mortgages that were done back three, four, five years ago, where people were buying homes that they frankly just couldn’t afford, with the concept, or belief, or premise that the appreciation of housing will be such that those people can afford them at some point in the future. That turned out to be not the case.”
Judson did not speculate about the personal connection between Rep. Watts and Gingrich that prompted the endorsement, but believes the Gingrich campaign chose the rally because of the opportunity to speak about such an important concern to a large audience.
“The opportunity to promote something that is fundamental to this country; that fact that home ownership is such a fabric and it’s being deteriorated by some ill-timed, ill-conceived instruments,” said Judson.
Judson made it clear that, although Gingrich was featured at the rally, the NAHB has not endorsed a candidate.
Although, much attention has focused around Mitt Romney’s slight lead in recent polls – and the momentum built from victories in Iowa and New Hampshire – Gingrich appears to have recaptured his prior momentum among South Carolinians. This modest but measurable rebound has emboldened his campaign’s outlook.
The Gingrich campaign’s greatest threat now lies in the split of non-Romney voters, yet judging from his renewed momentum – and the absence of any significant slingshot effect from earlier contests among his rivals –the South Carolina Primary will be closer in the top two spots than predicted.
Dmitriy Shapiro can be reached at email@example.com