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Gingrich Impresses, Paul Disappoints at Myrtle Beach Debate

The former House Speaker gets a nod from several in the crowd, but race remains Mitt Romney's to lose, many admit.

The winner of Monday night's GOP presidential debate is open for debate itself, but if a sampling of crowd reaction afterwards is any indication, Texas Rep. Ron Paul took a step backward with South Carolina voters.

The big issue was Paul's foreign policy, several said. Indeed, some of the biggest boos of the night were reserved for Paul when his stances on military and defense matters failed to be hawkish and interventionist enough for the crowd at Monday night's Fox News/Wall Street Journal/SCGOP debate in Myrtle Beach.

"He can't be trusted with national security issues with our nation," said GOP political activist Deborah Myers of Lexington. "I certainly don't want him to be the one to get the 3 o'clock in the morning phone call. Ron Paul's positions on national security are dangerous."

Leah Reid of Myrtle Beach said she had planned to vote for Paul until she heard more about his foreign policy.

"It's scary," she said. "I don't like that he doesn't feel that we need to take a strong presence against the Middle East, against Al Qaeda. I don't like his position on Osama Bin Laden. Really, it's scary. We are facing major threats and I think we need someone who is a little bit more serious about it."

The winner of the night's debate was a little more murky, though several people interviewed said they believed Newt Gingrich appeared to stand out. Many of those same people, however, remained uncertain his or any other candidate's performance would be enough to beat frontrunner Mitt Romney.

"I think there is still some more issues that need to be resolved to let one [candidate] rise above the crowd," said Dr. Douglas Reid of Myrtle Beach. "I think in the front are still Newt and Romney, and I think that Rick Perry had a better showing tonight than he has had in the past. I think Santorum and Ron Paul are going to fall further behind."

However, Myers took the contrarian view. 

"I think there is going to be a big surprise come Saturday," said Myers, who is wavering between supporting either Gingrich or Santorum. "I think conservatives will either coalesce behind Newt, or they will coalesce behind Santorum — and I feel it's going to be Newt."

"I thought Newt came out on top," said Mallory Morris of Myrtle Beach, another undecided voter. "I thought Romney evaded the questions a lot, and I think Perry did well. [But after tonight] I really like Newt."

Leigh Bullard of Raleigh, N.C., another undecided voter, also gave the nod to Newt for the night. "I think he's direct. I think he's quick to answer the question. I think he has facts that match up. I think he had an "A" tonight, and I think he's had an "A" at every single debate."

Robert Denny, Bullard's companion, echoed her sentiments. Until tonight he was undecided, but is now a solid Gingrich lean. "He really speaks his mind. He's right on with what I think."

Before the debate a beaming Curtis Loftis made the rounds in the media room, feeling good about his candidate. Loftis, S.C. State Treasurer, chairs Romney's S.C. campaign, and said he looked forward to a good showing.

"I'm confident but I'm not overconfident," he said. "In politics, you can be a champ today, and a chump tomorrow."

Joel Sawyer, who was Jon Huntsman's state campaign director before the candidate dropped out of the race on Monday, said he believes the state remains Romney's to lose. Despite Huntsman's endorsement of Romney on Monday, Sawyer said he plans to remain neutral throughout the race.

"As long as Santorum, Gingrich, Paul, and Perry are all in this race, then Romney is going to benefit from that," he said. 

Very little of the debate focused on social issues, which may have helped Romney, some attendees said.

"I think in South Carolina, in this cycle, you have to establish a baseline  of social conservatism to be viable," Sawyer said. "But I don't think this race is going to be won or lost on who is more pro-life than the other guy, or more pro-traditional marriage than the other guy. With that baseline of credibility, people are going to say, 'What are you going to do about jobs, what are you going to do about spending, what are you going to do about the economy?' I think those issues are where it's going to be won or lost."

Second District GOP Congressman Joe Wilson of Springdale said he thinks he knows whom he'll vote for, but demurred when asked. He also diplomatically refrained from picking a winner or loser, though he did say Paul's foreign policy and defense policies simply don't mesh with his own. 

"But I've always had foreign policy differences with him," Wilson said. "But I've always appreciated his economic policies."

Meantime, Paul supporter Chris Barczak of Columbia remains firmly in the Paul camp, he said.

"I think he did well. I don't think he got much time. I think in the first 45 minutes he had one question. I was disappointed with that," Barczak said. "But I think that everybody that supports Ron Paul, and peace in general, is happy with his non-intervention policies."

Jackson Baer January 17, 2012 at 08:28 AM
Ron Paul is consistent & honest and has my vote. I'm hoping for a strong finish in South Carolina and polls seem to show him surging somewhat. He did great in the debate tonight, again, and more Republicans need to consider him as a serious candidate. http://www.whatthehellbook.com/2012/01/05/fired-for-not-believing-in-hell/ http://www.whatthehellbook.com/the-book/
Briton January 17, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Ron Paul said what he believed about the US debt and the Fed when it was unpopular to do so. Now he is now about the risks and unsustainability of perpetual war when it is unpopular to do so. I take my British hat off for this man, it must be difficult to stand your ground when the right views and policies are not popular with the crowd. Yet, he passes this test with destinction!
James Tremaglio January 17, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Ron Paul 2012 last chance this nation has whether neocon losers like it or not, the neocon zionist slant media of this country has long ago discredited themselves in the american publics eye , this is just a further nail in the coffin, america pities them . Ron Paul was the clear winner last night to anyone with half a brain , its common sense really . Santorum and Gingrich maion losers,. as usual . some things never change , please get it straight if you ever hope for anyone to ever take anything you write with the slightest sense of credible seriousness again.
SDR January 17, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Newt is very compelling. Newt is also waist deep in the System. Ron Paul will shake things up. The others wont.
Bill Coleman January 17, 2012 at 04:03 PM
The GOLDEN RULE has been proven not to work with Islam. The best rule is "tic for tac" or "Do unto Islam as Islam has done to your friend". COWARDS DO NOT DEFEAT ISLAM (OR WIN ELECTIONS UNLESS ALL THE CANDIDATES ARE COWARDS(HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?)). I will probably vote for Ron Paul because there is not enough difference in the other candidates to make a difference and am hoping Paul would actually use the Constitution to defend the Constitution and the USA. Bill Coleman vin5ron@yahoo.com864-419-2797.
Ruth Clark January 17, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Normally I too would want an "outsider" in the White House, Ron Paul is also a deep insider, but with the turmoil in our Country we need someone who has inside knowledge of what is broken & ideas/solutions to begin repairing the problems! NEWT GINGRICH is the ONLY candidate who has BOLD, SPECIFIC SOLUTIONS, to just about all the issues, from spending, to saving Social Security, making personal responsibiity a "positive thing" again, to consolidating or removing agencies that are ineffective or redundant, the EXPERIENCE & TRACK RECORD of SUCCESS. America needs someone who can beat Obama, but most importantly he can win & change DC, winning wihtout making any strong changes is a LOSS for America. I have been saying for months " Why would I or anyone vote for Romney who lost to the guy (McCain) who lost to Obama" Newt finally came out with a similar statement this week. Romney isn't a bad guy, he would be a decent President... but we need more than a Mediocre, Moderate, Mass. Millionaire, Milk Toast President!!!
Jerry Locke January 17, 2012 at 04:26 PM
It was very telling that the audience, which you would think would be made up of a large number of pro-life Christians, would cheer for killing and war, and would boo the Golden Rule. I guess if Jesus Christ were seen walking around somewhere in South Carolina, the only question they'd be concerned with is: should we kill Him with bombs, or use a drone attack?
stanley seigler January 17, 2012 at 05:59 PM
@Bill Coleman: "The GOLDEN RULE [GR] has been proven not to work with Islam..." the GR probably doesn't work period...and very few if any practice it...well maybe it might work if we practiced it, instead of practicing the religion of christian hypocrites... Jesus would agree with paul's foreign policy...so it disconcerting that christians booed paul... but make lil/no difference who the GOP candidate is...it's BO in a landslide...ie, No 1 on letterman's top ten list: "who will be the GOP candidate to lose to BO."
Sassan K. Darian January 17, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I want to further thank the moderators for their questions in the South Carolina debate as the American people had the chance to again further see that Ron Paul is not only anti-American but anti-humanity for comparing a Chinese dissident to terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
Bill Coleman January 17, 2012 at 07:35 PM
The GOLDEN RULE can be expected to work between two or more people or groups when every one involved attempts within reason to practice it all the time. Are all Christians hypocrites? Does being a good Christian mean that a Christian is not to be concerned about the survival of Christianity or Christians? No answer needed; both Ron Paul and I were speaking about the Golden Rule. I have heard only the typical "liberal ploy" of talking about anything but the real issue when a viewpoint on an issue is indefensible.
rayetta croft January 17, 2012 at 08:07 PM
The only disappointment to me, was a bunch of so-called Christian conservatives booing the Golden Rule. Ron Paul is spot on. He and he only, has my vote.
SDR January 17, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Those that want "social conservatism" will get it if the Federal budget is cut. Social liberalism is underwritten by the Federal Budget. Ron Paul 2012
stanley seigler January 17, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Bill Coleman: "...I have heard only the typical "liberal ploy" of talking about anything but the real issue when a viewpoint on an issue is indefensible... certainly dont want to use ploys (liberal or otherwise)...and apologies for not seeing the ploy you see...perhaps you will enlighten me... what i see as a ploy is putting rhetorical's in my mouth then making a case "it's indefensible"...where's the indefensible issue... i did not say nor imply: all Christians hypocrites...neither said not implied one shouldn't be concerned about the survival of Christianity or Christians...or the world for that matter. seems you make a case against your words not mind... i did call christians hypocrites...not all, but all too many...ditto politicians and ideologues. sorry if i missed your point...dont see the "anything but" ploy.
Trev16 January 17, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Yes…Ron Paul did not have his best night last night. After all he is not a Ken doll and does not memorize all the cute slogans that dumb downed uninformed citizens want to hear. I love all the talk last night about Bin Laden. Funny how the FBI never had him on their most wanted list for 9/11. I know, I know, I know….never let facts get in the way of an argument. It’s also really sad how clueless fellow Americans are when it comes to the debt. The bottom line is the country is bankrupt and there will be a currency devaluation of at least 40% in the coming year(s). Maybe at the time when smokes & beer double in price they might start to get it…. however I doubt it….because they will turn on Fox news, etc and hear that this is all caused by the boogey man in a cave in the middle east. No one ever mentions in these debates who is going to pay for the military!!! Does any one ever mention what happens when China stops buying our Treasury Bills? ..... The country is broke....why pretend or live in a fantasy land that things are OK? If we did not have food stamps....46 milliion people would be in soup lines just like the Great Depression.... Lastly, I wish Ron Paul would say to all those people booing last night….that it would be great if they go down to their local recruitment office tomorrow to sign up for the military so they could go and be on the front line.
Nathanael Greene January 17, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Last night, I think Dr. Paul was focused on the fact it was MLK Jr. day. Quite a few us were watching to see how he dealt with those questions. Dr. King would definitely be on Dr. Paul's side after that debate. IMHO, Ron Paul's the only person who could possibly beat Obama in a general election. In God We Trust Ron Paul for President
Jerry Locke January 17, 2012 at 10:34 PM
It wasn't the best example to use, I'll give you that. But the fact remains that he is right about this. If the Chinese sent a team to America to capture someone they wanted, not a dissident but a hardened criminal that had somehow escaped from China and come here, no matter how vile or deserving of death that person is, we Americans would be outraged by the violation of our sovereign territory. It is completely impossible to adequately explain 100 years of foreign policy blunders in a 90 second question and answer format. Especially when the audience boos and moderators change the subject whenever they hear something they don't like. Our foreign policy is a deplorable mess and nobody wants to hear it. They plug their ears and scream for more blood to be spilled. If "they" hate us because we have "freedom" and "prosperity" then why do "they" still hate us when we have thrown both of them away?
Jeff Phelps January 18, 2012 at 04:26 AM
These writers, Hal Millard and Jeff Brush, are total crackpots and should not be regarded as credible!
J.t. Williams January 18, 2012 at 06:23 AM
Nice anti-Paul "journalism"- no opposing viewpoints? A man who calls Ron Paul an insider? I've never heard anything so prosperous. Sadly, it's always old men (past military age) that are the most enthusiastic about war. And the man who calls for peace is deemed dangerous! IIn a time of universal deceit- telling the truth is a revolutionary act. Go vote Gingrich fools
John Vindex January 18, 2012 at 08:59 AM
The attacks on 9/11 supposedly cost less than $500,000. So for the $4 TRILLION you supported in fighting that terrorist act, what have you got to show for it? Ten years of preemptive wars, thousands dead and trillions borrowed from the Chinese and no end in sight. Afghanistan will fall apart the second US troops leave and Iraq is already falling into Iran's sphere. And how'd that $40 billion to propping up Mubarrek work out? How's Libya working out? Oh, and another generation of Muslims will hate us. (BTW there's 1.232 billion of them so good look killing them all). I tend to listen to people like Ronald Reagan who complained in his memoirs about the irrationality of Middle East politics and specifically on the 1982 Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon: "If that policy had changed to more of a neutral position those 241 Marines would be alive today." Hey, it was all worth it. We haven't lost much except for being groped at airports, right? Oh yeah, and the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on US citizens and monitor their activities, but so what. Oh, and the US government can now assassinate US citizens without due process, but they probably deserve it. Oh, and the military can now carry out detention of US citizens contrary to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. So who needs the Fourth Amendment granting liberty from unreasonable seizures or the Sixth guaranteeing every U.S. citizen a trial in front of a jury, right?
Bill Coleman January 18, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Time for 20/20 hindsight. What should the US response to "911" have been, considering the election of an alien/Islamist/Socialist (or whatever you want to call him) US President and other world events?
George Grace January 18, 2012 at 10:36 PM
"NEWT GINGRICH is the ONLY candidate who has BOLD, SPECIFIC SOLUTIONS," No, Barack Obama is the one fighting for change against an obstructionist House of Representatives.
George Grace January 18, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Well written, John.

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