Did Gingrich pack the debate audience with supporters in South Carolina?

If Gingrich’s camp is going to come out and explain last nights loud audience support for Romney was a clear indication the organizers “packed the room” with Romney supporters, Romney should fire back implying Gingrich “packed the room” with his own supporters in South Carolina.

I don’t think there is anything to this concept, I think Gingrich is swinging in desperation in Florida.

Members of Newt Gingrich’s campaign accused Mitt Romney’s campaign of packing the audience for the Republican presidential candidate debate on Thursday night in Jacksonville, Fla., with its own supporters to ensure that the dynamics would be favorable to Romney.

“They definitely packed the room,” Kevin Kellems, one of Gingrich’s senior advisers, told The Huffington Post early Friday morning.

OK. What information does Kellems have? Turns out, it’s pure speculation as far as I can tell.

Florida Republican Party spokesman Brian Hughes told HuffPost in a phone interview late Thursday that the state party controlled who got roughly 900 of the 1,200 tickets issued to the debate. But he took issue with charges that the crowd was tilted toward any one candidate.

“The vast majority of [the tickets] went to rank and file. We did a very thorough job of getting them to the rank and file, vetting them to make sure they went to registered Republicans and then making sure they went out to people that were not knowingly affiliated” with any of the candidates, Hughes said.

“We worked very hard to ensure that the room was rank-and-file folks who represent the electorate that these guys are trying to speak to,” Hughes said.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom was asked after the debate if the campaign had worked to get supporters in the crowd. Fehrnstrom said he had invited his parents, who live in Jacksonville, but no one else.

“The campaign was given an allotment of tickets,” Fehrnstrom said. “I don’t know how many tickets they received. I assume it’s the same as every other campaign.”

After the debate ended, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, wrote on Twitter: “Hidden story of this debate: Why was audience more pro-Mitt & less pro-Newt than others? JAX was pro-Mitt ’08, but must be more to it.”

Oh yeah, Romney getting that much support in Florida just does not make sense. Why would people support him so much?

Back to South Carolina. Maybe the first answer from Gingrich set the tone for the debate and the level of enthusiasm for Gingrich during the debate, but Romney’s camp could just claim Gingrich operatives packed the room with supporters … with no evidence at all.

Update: Tina Korbe at Hot Air picked up on this story and notes…

After this debate, his [Gingrich] complaints seem weak. Sure, he’s a great debater, but that doesn’t mean another candidate can’t possibly overshadow him in a particular showing. Even Gingrich fans admit the former Speaker’s performance last night was lackluster. Who knows? Maybe he pandered to Floridians too much: Eventually flattery offends as much as it gratifies.

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. zedgar2 on January 27, 2012 at 8:57 am

    A disturbing pattern is emerging with Newt: blame everyone else. Blame Virginia for not getting on that ballot. Blame the media for asking unfair or irrelevant questions. Blame his original campaign staff for jumping ship. Blame NBC’s “no cheering” for his flat debate performance earlier in the week. And now blame the Romney camp for stacking the audience. That’s presidential only in the sense that it mirrors the current White House occupier.

  2. ricbee on January 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Isn’t that what they all try to do?

    • Lynn on January 28, 2012 at 9:12 am

      Yes, since Adam and Eve, blame the serpent!

  3. JBS on January 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Did anyone stop and consider that the “crowds” might be having a real response to whoever was speaking?
    All I am reading is sour grapes and blaming. Yes! We have had enough of the blame game. How about someone who will take personal responsibility? Someone who will have the guts to recognize his or her policies/ actions are not working — are actually harmful?
    We already have someone who will always double-down on stupid.


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