The Republicans get really ticked off when anyone suggests that they play the race card. Oh, do they get ticked off. I knew Michael Steele was doomed as Republican National Committee Chair, despite setting up a year which saw the GOP pick up several statehouses along with the US House of Representatives, when he dared say what everyone knows but won’t admit: That the racist-as-all-get-out Southern Strategy was not, as Republicans like to claim, abandoned when Nixon left the White House in disgrace, but in fact has been in use for over four decades.
But of course, racism is at the heart of the modern Republican Party, especially in South Carolina. Newt Gingrich knows this very well, which is why he picked a fight with the NAACP a week before the South Carolina primary — and then, to rub more salt into black wounds under the guise of “outreach”, visited an African Methodist Episcopal church in Columbia, South Carolina. The pictures and footage of Gingrich daring to repeat his race-baiting at the AME church were all over the local South Carolina media, effectively ringing a dinner bell to the racists who (thanks to nearly half a century of the GOP’s use of the Southern Strategy) make up a non-trivial part of the national Republican base and the lion’s share of the Palmetto State GOP’s base; while Republican turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire wasn’t especially higher this year than in 2008, GOP turnout in South Carolina was up by a full third over 2008 — and Gingrich was the beneficiary of that boost in turnout.
It is Gingrich’s skill at playing to a racist base, a skill honed in his years representing Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, that has taken what many commentators proclaimed was a sure nomination win for Romney and created the prospect of a brokered convention, if not an outright Gingrich win before the convention is held.
UPDATE: Here’s another big fat hint that this has to do with race-baiting. Remember how the evangelicals were all lining up behind Rick Santorum, who was expected to do really well in South Carolina? Well, Santorum didn’t do all that well in South Carolina, and I suspect it was because of his recently touting his support for the Martin Luther King voting rights bill. This, coupled with Gingrich’s doing his calculated race-baiting against the NAACP, likely led many of Santorum’s backers into the arms of Newt, as well as stirring up for Newt some of the base voters who’d been contemplating sitting this one out.
UPDATE 2: Note that Gingrich likes to call Obama “the food stamp president”. This, combined with the “food stamp” smear he directed against the NAACP, is quite telling. Wonder how long it is before he shows up at an AME church in Florida to tick off the parishioners in the name of “outreach” and throw some more racist fodder to the white GOP base?