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Do Gingrich and Santorum Have the Same Speechwriter? | The Nation

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Ben Adler

Ben Adler

 The 2012 election, Republican politics and conservative media.

Do Gingrich and Santorum Have the Same Speechwriter?

Concord, NH—Watching Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum on the campaign trail, one gets the eerie sense that they may be sharing a speechwriter. Their respective messages are virtually identical. The former House Speaker and the former senator from Pennsylvania offer the same rationale for the candidacies: that Ronald Reagan proved in 1980 that being a stauncher conservative is actually an electoral asset rather than liability. Both Gingrich and Santorum say the election will require a “bold” “contrast” with President Obama. Therefore, they argue, a “Massachusetts moderate”—you know who that is—will be a weaker candidate in the general election than a “Reagan conservative.” The polling data on match-ups against Obama do not bear this out. Rather they show Romney nearly tied with Obama, while Gingrich and Santorum easily lose to the president. 

Nonetheless, both Gingrich and Santorum adore the analogy to 1980. They beat the comparison to death. Santorum invokes the Democratic incumbent presiding over a weak economy and a “feckless” approach to Iran. Gingrich jokes that he’ll steal Reagan’s lines and just substitute Obama’s name for Jimmy Carter’s.

One notable difference in their styles is that Gingrich attempts to take credit for virtually everything that happened during his tenure in Congress. In the early 1980s, according to Gingrich, the economy grew rapidly because of Reagan’s policies as president, with a helpful assist from Gingrich in the House of Representatives. The stock market crash of 1987, during Reagan’s tenure, and the ensuing recession during George H.W. Bush’s term—Gingrich was in the House minority leadership during this era—get no mention. Gingrich simply fast-forwards to the economic expansion and balanced budgets of the Clinton years. Gingrich, of course, claims credit for this as well. So when there’s a Republican president and a Democratic Speaker of the House (Tip O’Neil), the president gets the credit for the economy. When there’s a Republican House speaker and a Democratic president, the speaker gets the credit. At least Gingrich is consistent: he always credits Republicans. Unfortunately, he isn’t too honest. He tries to claim responsibility for balanced budgets that happened after he resigned.

The most preposterous line advanced by both Santorum and Gingrich is that their respective experiences in Congress during the 1990s demonstrate an ability to work across party lines. Santorum and Gingrich were, of course, intensely partisan figures prone to demonizing their opposition. Both left office despised by liberals and not terribly popular even within their own party.

The idea that they will be more electable, or govern in a more conciliatory manner, than Romney is absurd. But making absurd claims with a straight face is what Gingrich and Santorum have been doing for decades.

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