Gingrich Tries to Punch His Way to S.C. Upset

Gingrich Tries to Punch His Way to S.C. Upset

By Scott Conroy - January 18, 2012

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Newt Gingrich has a penchant for comparing his own circumstances to those that beset some of American history's most revered political figures.

But in campaign stops across South Carolina on Tuesday, the former House speaker sounded more like he was channeling Muhammad Ali than Abraham Lincoln.

Asked by a voter in Florence how he planned to "bloody Obama's nose" in a general election, Gingrich replied, "I don't want to bloody his nose. I want to knock him out."

Gingrich did not flat-out say, “I am the greatest,” but like the great boxer, he reveled in belittling and dismissing his rivals -- both Obama and the other Republican contenders.

Bestowing a backhanded compliment on Rick Santorum as a “nice guy,” Gingrich added that the former Pennsylvania senator “doesn’t have any of the knowledge for how to do something of this scale” and suggested that Santorum and Rick Perry would be doing themselves a favor by ending their White House bids and getting behind his campaign.

Later in the day, Gingrich took a moment to mock Mitt Romney after the millionaire former Massachusetts governor revealed that he pays personal income taxes at an effective rate near 15 percent.

“I think we ought to rename our flat tax,” Gingrich said, according to reports. “We have a 15 percent flat tax, so this would be the Mitt Romney flat tax that all Americans could then pay the rate that Mitt Romney paid.”

At an early-afternoon town-hall meeting here, Gingrich aimed his jabs at Obama and focused on convincing the audience of the notion that seems so obvious to him: that he is the best GOP candidate to take on the president in November.

On issues ranging from jobs to energy to national security, Gingrich wielded his rhetorical hatchet against Obama with a particular ferocity.

“I think you’re going to have on the one hand a paycheck president and on the other hand a food stamp president,” Gingrich predicted of the general election matchup in November.

The crowd was with him, and some members of the audience rewarded Gingrich with intermittent shouts of “amen” and vociferous rounds of applause.

Still, aides had to remove several dozen empty seats before Gingrich took the stage -- a concession that they had expected a larger turnout.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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