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Newt Gingrich, Welfare Queen

Newt Gingrich prepares at the Home Builders Association of South Carolina rally in Columbia, South Carolina on  January 12, 2012.
Newt Gingrich prepares at the Home Builders Association of South Carolina rally in Columbia, South Carolina on January 12, 2012. Photograph by Tim Dominick/The State/MCT/LANDOV

In the 1970s, Republicans had a name for people they imagined were indolent and undeserving, yet still on the dole: welfare queens. Ronald Reagan himself popularized the term at the 1976 Republican convention, and conservatives since then have periodically whipped up a frenzy over some similar imagined crisis of dependency, usually involving ethnic minorities and almost always in the service of winning political office. The latest was Newt Gingrich, whose blustery denunciations of Barack Obama as the “food stamp president” briefly helped raise him to frontrunner status in the Republican primary.

But Newt has had a rough go of it since then. He’s fallen back — way, way back. His main source of funding (billionaire Sheldon Adelson) has dried up. His think tank went bankrupt. His campaign is $4.3 million in debt. He doesn’t hold a prayer of beating Mitt Romney, something he has all but conceded. And yet since March 6th, the Secret Service has honored his request for protection at a cost to taxpayers of roughly $40,000 a day (or, to translate that into a metric Newt might favor, enough to supply 13,333 people a day with food stamps). That would yield a tab of more than $5 million were Gingrich to carry out his vow to stay in the race until the Republican convention at the end of August.