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With Republican candidate Newt Gingrich's moon-colony proclamation made at a recent Republican debate and the ensuing dismissal and derision surrounding the quote, it appeared to many that the former speaker of the house may himself be either in or from outer space.
While campaigns are always stoked by "tell you what you want to hear" rhetoric, it would appear that Newt's campaign in now focusing not only on the American frontier of Western states like Arizona but more along the lines of the Star Trek's "final frontier."
All cheap puns and word play aside, in the context of Florida and Florida's Space Coast: home to Florida's Space Coast and home to the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral, the motivation behind the bizarre postulation is obvious. Gingrich was simply pandering to the voters of a state especially affected by budget cuts to NASA and dwindling interest and investment in space travel, a significant part of that state's economic identity.
While space exploration and the aeronautics industry are of obvious importance to voters of Florida's Space Coast and encompassing areas like Jacksonville where the debate took place, the truly strange part of it was Newt's colonization platform, with him promising to build a "moon base" by the year 2020. In addition, Newt explained that once the inhabitants of the base total 13,000, said moon-people can apply for statehood, making it the 51st state of the United States of America.
What sounded like the pitch for a "Twilight Zone" episode was rationalized by Newt as an attempt to revitalize space exploration through public and private business partnerships, but also to prevent the Chinese from putting their own Mao on the moon and turning the gray rock red. No, not really, but Newt did emphasize the importance of not ceding the moon to China and allowing the Chinese to "dominate space."
While much has been made of this, Gingrich chose a rather unusual way to make a rather salient point and illustrate the need for America to invest in its industries and stem the flow of American ingenuity and enterprise to other countries.
But will one small misstep for Newt in turn serve as a giant leap for Romney? Probably not. While much has been made of the moon-colony quote, Newt's problems are far greater than his hollow grandstanding in this instance. At this point Newt STILL has more skeletons left in his closet than a discount Halloween store on the first of November. And it will be those demons, so to speak, that will likely be his undoing as this campaign progresses.
While Newt has moral, ethical, and political demons to excise, Gingrich has proven to be somewhat the dark horse of this campaign and one not to be counted out. Having won South Carolina's primary, he continues to give Romney a run for his money, even though Gingrich's campaign is working with far less of it. He is a Democrat's ideal Republican candidate in that he holds the least swing vote appeal and for many Republicans a frightening prospect due to what many see as the not only improbable but impossible chances of him beating an incumbent in Barack Obama.
As Gingrich lost the Florida primary by a wide margin to Romney, he maintained that unwavering confidence or arrogance, depending on how you interpret him, in post-primary speeches. And while Gingrich has now conceded Michigan, the state where Romney's father held the gubernatorial seat, as well as Nevada, a Mormon stronghold, he has not conceded defeat. But as long as Gingrich remains in the hunt, one thing is certain: He may want to build a moon base, but many in his own party want nothing more than to see him totally eclipsed.
--by Colin Deppen, Staff Writer