What He Is
Let's be clear about this.
Newt Gingrich's considerable surge nationally, and near-astronomical surge among Republicans in South Carolina, may be due to a few factors. But the combative style which has endeared him to Republican voters was most significantly manifested in the Monday night debate in South Carolina.
Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver, who as of this morning gives Newt Gingrich an 82% chance of winning today's primary, notes "one pollster showed an incredible 22-point swing against Mr. Romney and toward Newt Gingrich over the course of a 24-hour period after the Monday night debate."
One of the two major clips coming out of the presidential debate hosted by GOP TV and GOP Press on Monday night featured Mitt Romney unable to defuse the issue of release of his tax return(s) which, incomprehensibly, he also was unable to accomplish in the Thursday night debate, sponsored by CNN, the Tea Party Patriots, and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.
But the most dramatic moment occurred when Gingrich was asked about his idea that children supplant janitors in schools. Charging (without detail, facts, or statistics) that New York City janitors "make an absurd amount of money," the Pennsylvanian turned Georgian turned Virginian lectured Juan Williams and asserted "the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history."
You won't be surprised that the claim is false. Brooks Jackson of USA Today's factcheck.org reports (emphasis theirs)
We asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition service for month-by-month figures going back to January 2001. And they show that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that.
And under Obama, the increase so far has been 14.2 million. To be exact, the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama's time in office than during Bush's.
Jackson notes "Gingrich would have been correct to say the number now on food aid is historically high" (or that) "the number has risen sharply since Obama took office.
But that wouldn't have gotten the job done. It's one thing to point out that more individuals are on food stamps now than ever before but that doesn't directly tie the situation to President Obama. Neither does noting the number of people on food stamps has jumped considerably since Obama became president; it the reason may have been unrelated, and it does not suggest (directly or indirectly) that it wasn't Barack Obama's intent. Make no mistake, however: "more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama" means that Obama himself has done it- and apparently, with intent and motive. Unless Mr. Obama is moonlighting as social services/human services director of 50 states, he couldn't have done it himself. Or intentionally, even indirectly.
The claim is absurd, suggesting that Newt Gingrich's motive may not be pristine. James Fallows understands (emphasis his)
Newt Gingrich knows exactly what he is doing when he calls Obama the "food stamp" president, just as Ronald Reagan knew exactly what he was doing when talking about "welfare Cadillacs." There are lots of other ways to make the point about economic hard times - entirely apart from which person and which policies are to blame for today's mammoth joblessness, and apart from the fact that Congress sets food stamp policies. You could call him the "pink slip president," the "foreclosure president," the Walmart president," the "Wall Street president," the "Citibank president," the "bailout president," or any of a dozen other images that convey distress. You decide to go with "the food stamp president," and you're doing it on purpose.
If Joe Lieberman had been elected, I would be wary of attacks on his economic policy that called him "the cunning, tight-fisted president." If Henry Cisneros had or Ken Salazar does, I would notice arguments about ineffectiveness phrased as "the manana administration." If Gary Locke were in office, then "the Manchurian candidate" jokes that had been used on Jon Huntsman would have a different edge. And so on.
It shouldn't take a two-by-four applied to the cranium of the nation's media for Newt Gingrich to be recognized, and identified, as what he is.