Newt Gingrich's Statistics: All Sizzle, No Steak

August 12, 2010 11:55 am ET — Alan Pyke

According to Newt Gingrich, a few hundred thousand Missouri Republicans speak for the whole, diverse country — all 300 million plus. In an email to supporters yesterday, Gingrich claimed that two statistics — 9.5 percent and 71 percent — prove "the failure of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid secular-socialist machine."

First, Gingrich's argument that 9.5 percent unemployment proves anything is pretty foolish, and suggests that he just doesn't understand how we got into this economic catastrophe. Worse, he seems to enjoy taking shots at the work ethic of unemployed Americans, saying in the email that "the extension of unemployment benefits has given people a perverse incentive to stay on unemployment" and that the unemployed "get so used to being unproductive that they are willing to accept welfare indefinitely instead of taking a job."

(Gingrich's put-downs mirror the general Republican attitude toward unemployment benefits and jobless Americans, and they're also out of step with economists. Read our full fact check of Gingrich's jobs foolishness.)

The second number — 71 percent — refers to the Missouri referendum against the Affordable Care Act, which passed with 71 percent of the vote. Wow! That's definitive!

Except that it's not. The disgraced former House Speaker fluffs up the significance of the vote thusly:

71% is the percentage of voters in Missouri -- a swing state -- who in a vote last week rejected a federally imposed individual health insurance mandate, a key provision in Obamacare that requires all Americans to buy health insurance.

In reality, only 23 percent of registered voters in the state turned out. Of that already-tiny slice, 65 percent voted in the Republican primary. In other words, this was a tiny, hyper-partisan non-event. 668,938 Missourians simply don't speak for a nation of hundreds of millions.

Somebody should tell Newt Gingrich to check out an actual national poll, with trendlines and random samples and, well, some validity: