Newt and the Truth Factor

The most important lesson GOP candidates can learn from the Gingrich freefall is that honesty counts.

Newt Gingrich's surprise victory in the South Carolina GOP primary followed closely on the heels of his performance in the last debate before the election.  To refresh your memory, watch the YouTube video of the exchange between CNN's John King and Gingrich that enabled the candidate to close the door on any hope for a Romney win.

Few would disagree with the conclusion that Gingrich's performance in that debate was the factor that mattered most in his South Carolina campaign.  It took place just days before the election; it targeted the mainstream media, ABC and CNN specifically; it resonated with voters in the Palmetto State because they recognize liberal bias in the mainstream media as a serious problem; and it demonstrated a side of Newt's character that they hope to see in a campaign against President Obama -- the ability to deliver knockout blows with frontal assaults.

Newt's feisty side was the subject of articles immediately following the debate and it catapulted him to victory in South Carolina, but after the election, things changed.  Suddenly, another side of Newt's character came into play -- his moral side.  Although the issue during the debate was whether Gingrich proposed having an open marriage relationship with his second former wife, clearly a moral question, the issue that Newt faced as he entered the final stretch before the Florida GOP primary had to do with his truthfulness, another moral question.  The evidence below confirms that fact:

If Newt's truthfulness, or more precisely his lack of it, had come into play before the South Carolina GOP primary, I suspect that the outcome would have been different and Romney would have won.  But the facts weren't available, and Gingrich won by a wide margin. 

Unless something unusual happens before Floridians go to the polls on Tuesday, it looks as though Gingrich will lose handily.  Interestingly, the same debate performance that gave Gingrich a South Carolina victory will most likely cost him a Florida win.  Although GOP voters admire Newt's ability to speak quickly and authoritatively on just about any subject under the sun, they now wonder if he is prone to make things up when he thinks the need arises.  Although truthfulness may not matter to Democrats as President Clinton, Senator John Kerry, Senator Harry Reid, Representative Barney Frank, and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, well know, it does matter to most ordinary citizens and to GOP voters.

The most important lesson that GOP candidates can learn from the Gingrich freefall is that honesty counts.  Newt Gingrich wasn't honest, and it will probably cost him the Florida primary and the GOP nomination.  President Obama has a propensity to play loose with the facts, too, and with his "performance record" being what it is, you can bet that he will throw out lots of information that won't pass the truth test.  Will it cost him a second term as president?  I hope so, but the eventual GOP nominee must be willing to challenge the president's claims when they are patently false to make sure that it does.

Counterpoint: Newt and the Truth Factor

Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia.  His blog,, is posted daily.  His latest book is titled If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You're Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You're Not an Idiot.