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Did Blingfest at Tiffany's Doom the Gingrich Campaign?


Newt Gingrich might be able to go back to running up that $500,000 credit account with Tiffany's (NYSE: TIF) sooner than he would like, as he's proving himself quite unpopular among Republican voters, to say nothing of how Democrats view the thrice-married former Speaker of the House.

Overall, 61% of Republicans who recognize Gingrich now view him favorably, while 32% view him unfavorably. This gives Gingrich the second-lowest favorable and the highest unfavorable rating of any candidate Gallup is tracking, according to the Gallup organization. You can view the Gallup report here.

Two issues have been at the forefront of voter's minds as Gingrich's support has tanked. First, Gingrich was extremely critical of popular Representative Paul Ryan's budget plan, calling it “right-wing social engineering” and “radical change”. He backtracked shortly thereafter, realizing that criticizing the core political platform of his party while running for his party's nomination was fairly boneheaded.

Second has been Newt Blingrich's refusal to properly address the discrepancies between what he says and what the facts are regarding his no-interest account with Tiffany's. As Benzinga reported yesterday, Gingrich was one of 1000 or so customers to qualify for a sweetheart deal with Tiffany's and receive zero-interest loans on large purchases for certain special clientele.

Gingrich has left unanswered how he came to be one of the rare clients of Tiffany's who qualified for no-interest loans. While many firms offer no-interest terms to clients, they do so with certain circumstances applied. According to Tiffany's public statement, the jeweler offers their no-interest Time Accounts "to revolving credit card customers who wish to purchase engagement rings over $1,000 or other merchandise valued over $5,000." They also said "...on a transactional basis, this program offers interest-free borrowing for up to one year for credit-worthy Tiffany customers."

Gingrich has said he paid no interest on his Tiffany's accounts, meaning the first option — a regular, revolving account that charges interest — either is untrue or Gingrich “misspoke”. Assuming Gingrich isn't lying, that leaves the other option: that Tiffany's considered him a special customer, worthy of special treatment.

The question is, under what terms did the company consider him special? Blingrich says the deal was nothing special, but consider the circumstances around the loan.

Gingrich is a connected politician, the former Speaker of the House, and (implausibly) running for President as a Washington outsider (wait, what?). His wife was a staffer in the House, working for the committee that oversees issues near and dear to jewelery and mining companies like Tiffany's. His top aide guessed it...a lobbyist for Tiffany's. How convenient...

For their part, the Blingrich Campaign is done talking about the issue. They've paid back their free money and consider the issue dead. For Republican primary voters, it's the Gingrich campaign, and not the specific issues, that seems to be dead.


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Posted-In: Newt GingrichNews Movers & Shakers Politics Global Hot Media General Best of Benzinga

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