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"Grandiosity has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich," Santorum observed. He didn't mean that Gingrich was lacking in it.
Merriam-Webster offers two definitions for grandiose. One is negative—"characterized by affectation of grandeur or splendor or by absurd exaggeration; and one is positive—"impressive because of uncommon largeness, scope, effect, or grandeur."
In his response to Santorum, Gingrich copped to the appealing kind of grandiosity. "You're right: I think grandiose thoughts. This is a grandiose country of big people doing big things, and we need leadership prepared to take on big projects."
Mitt Romney, delighted to talk about anything other than his taxes, was glad to support Santorum's attack. After Gingrich spoke at length of his central role in working with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s to create jobs and economic growth, Romney noted: "You're mentioned once in Ronald Reagan's diary....He says you had an idea in a meeting of—of young congressmen, and it wasn't a very good idea, and he dismissed it."
Earlier yesterday, the news had been dominated by allegations in an ABC Nightline interview from Gingrich's second of three wives, Marianne Gingrich. She said that in 1999, he'd asked her if they could have an open marriage so he could continue an affair he was in the midst of. Moderator John King opened the debate last night by asking Gingrich if he wanted to respond to the allegation. Gingrich did so by first blasting the "destructive, vicious, negative nature" of the news media. Focusing on a personal matter like this two days before the primary, he said, was "as close to despicable as anything I can imagine." He was "astounded that CNN [the debate sponsor] would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate." The response won him a standing ovation.
He went on to deny the allegation. "Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren't interested, because they would like to attack any Republican." It was yet another example, he said, "of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans."
“That’s just not true," ABC Senior Vice President Jeffrey Schneider told the Washington Post this morning, regarding Gingrich's claims about the interview with Marianne Gingrich. "His daughters were in our story last night and we sought interviews with Gingrich or surrogates very aggressively starting Tuesday morning. Would have been happy to interview anyone they put forward.”
In the debate, Gingrich asserted, as he often has, that his debating skills make him the best candidate to face President Obama. "I'd be quite happy to have a three-hour Lincoln-Douglas-style debate with Barack Obama. I'd let him use a teleprompter. I'll just rely on knowledge."
Obama is "the most dangerous president of our lifetime," Gingrich said, and if he's reelected "the level of radicalism of his second term will be truly frightening." The only way to prevent this, Gingrich went on, was with a series of debates with Obama that would "decisively convince the American people that a Saul Alinsky radical who is incompetent cannot be reelected." And he alone could do it.