In the final three paragraphs of a report that was primarily about Mitt Romney trying to lower expectations concerning the results of tomorrow's South Carolina Primary voting, Steve Holland of Reuters told readers that Newt Gingrich canceled an appearance.
Holland then used that appearance as an opportunity to build on a meme the press has been working on for some time about the former speaker:
Gingrich missed a chance on Friday to follow up on his strong debate performance when he canceled an appearance at a Republican Party conference in Charleston because of a small crowd.
Although only a minor blip in a long campaign, the cancellation again raised questions about whether Gingrich is disciplined enough to win the nomination and then go on to beat Obama in November.
"He gave his word that he was coming here and at the last second, something better came along," said Ann Sullivan, a Republican from North Carolina attending the conference.
At the PJ Tatler, Bryan Preston, who was there, ripped into Holland's horrid take (paragraph breaks added by me):
Gingrich was the first speaker on the slate for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference at TD Arena this morning, followed by ... J. Christian Adams and then Ron Paul. The SRLC has been eclipsed by the primary all week, and it is struggling badly to hold audiences for any speaker.
Media cameras were on hand, but little audience, when it was time for Gingrich to speak, through no fault of his own.
His choice: Go ahead and speak, and hand the media footage of him addressing a large and mostly empty arena on a crucial campaign day; or cancel and annoy the ten people who happened to be there. He and his campaign made the rational call, and canceled.
Seems pretty smart to me.
As Bryan noted, photos of a relatively empty room would have been used by media types thirsting for revenge at Gingrich's standing up to John King of CNN at Thursday night's debate. He wouldn't give them the satisfaction.
Yes, Holland ripped Gingrich anyway, but the impact of his words is nothing compared to the damage negative photos could have done.
Rather than demonstrate lack of discipline, it would seem that Gingrich's decision demonstrates its presence, and the ability to adapt to circumstances when enemies chomping at the bit to take you down are present.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.