CHESTER, S.C. -- Newt Gingrich’s daughter, Jackie Cushman, said today she thinks her father would have fared better in the Iowa caucuses if there had been a presidential debate in the days leading up to the vote.
Speaking to about 40 Republicans here in the picturesque upstate town of Chester, Cushman said Gingrich’s fourth-place finish in Iowa wasn’t what they had hoped for originally, but they had gradually come to expect that result because of all the negative ads hitting Gingrich there.
“The other reason Dad’s numbers weren’t quite as good is because the last debates were a few weeks ago, and the debates remind us -- when all of the candidates are up on the same stage, and they’re next to each other providing their vision of America’s future -- they provide a very clear contrast to the voters."
Cushman added that voters would have a chance to see her father in his element once again, in two back-to-back debates in New Hampshire this weekend.
When asked later by NBC News about her belief that debates would have given her father a boost in the polls, Cushman said: “Absolutely. I have no doubt in my mind.”
Cushman also said that the campaign’s internal polling had shown Gingrich on the rise right before the caucuses, so that part of his low showing was due to bad timing.
When asked how her father would weather the onslaught of negative ads in South Carolina, Cushman said he plans on handling it “differently."
"He’s already begun to draw a clearer contrast between what he would bring to the table and other candidates, and I think you’ll continue to see that along the campaign trail.”
The appearance in Chester had special significance for Cushman, whose father-in-law is from the small town. At the end of the event, a man approached Cushman to tell her that he was her father-in-law’s roommate at Clemson University.