COLUMBIA, S.C. – The daughters of two presidential candidates – Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman – made appeals on behalf of their fathers to a Republican women’s club here tonight, one damning her father’s opponents with faint praise, the others making an electability argument for their dad.
Addressing about 30 members of the Capital City Republican Women’s Club, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, Gingrich’s daughter with his first wife, first said Rick Santorum, who finished a close second in the Iowa caucus, is a “great guy” and seemed to praise his Congressional record.
“If you remember with the debates,” she said, “he’d mention that he did welfare reform… under Newt Gingrich. And then he did something else… under Newt Gingrich,” she said.
She also seemed to commiserate with the Santorum campaign, saying that the newly high-flying candidate would be bombarded with negative ads just like Gingrich was in Iowa. But, she added, her father was able to weather those attacks, and would be able to handle the general election onslaught.
“People say, ‘can Newt Gingrich survive a billion dollars from the Obama campaign?’ The answer is absolutely yes. He can survive it and he’s been through it in Iowa.”
Santorum was not the only object/target of Cushman’s praise/criticism, as she also took on Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.
“[Perry’s] a great guy, he’s done very well in Texas, he’s a very good governor of Texas. But Texas is different from a national scene,” she said. “A part-time Texas legislature is very different than having full-time people in Washington that are determined to stay there and do what they do best. It is a different world.”
As her father has in the past, Cushman called Romney a “great businessman.”
“Anyone can tell you he’s a great businessman. He is. I’m just not sure we need to send the best businessman to Washington to manage something.”
Cushman ended her speech with a personal story about her father, talking about how, as a boy, he rescued his dog Pride from under the cracked ice of a frozen pond in Pennsylvania. In the process, Cushman said, he fell under the ice himself.
“He’s literally under the ice. And he said that’s when he learned in his life not to panic. Because he knew if he panicked, he would die,” she said.
Cushman said the story accomplished two goals: “I think it shows you that he doesn’t panic. And I think you see that as he progresses in this campaign. The other reason is because I think it shows you a window into who he is as a person.”
“That he is a man who would risk his life to save his dog,” she continued.
Jon Huntsman’s daughters Mary Anne and Liddy – two thirds of the “Jon 2012 Girls,” addressed the 20 women who remained in the room after Cushman left.
As she re-introduced herself and her sister (the two spoke to the club over the summer), Mary Anne Huntsman referenced their popularity on YouTube, saying, “we’ve made a couple of videos, maybe you’ve seen them,” as the women chuckled.
Liddy Huntsman called her father the “modern candidate” who would restore a sense of trust that she said has been lost during the Obama administration.
“I think our generation, we were promised hope and change four years ago,” she said. “The fact that we’re being handed down a country that is less good, less confident, is unacceptable.”
Mary Anne touted what she characterized as her father’s ability to go toe-to-toe with President Obama, for whom Huntsman worked as ambassador to China.
“Another huge thing in electing a candidate is the electability factor. We need someone who can really go against Barack Obama,” she said.