A wild week in South Carolina turns the GOP race on it's head with 12% margin of victory for NEWT!
What a difference a week makes! Just a week ago Mitt Romney was still riding high after a big win in New Hampshire and came to South Carolina with a double digit lead in the polls and an attitude being expressed in the media that he had the nomination in the bag.
But then things got nasty in SC as they often do. Romney outspent Gingrich more than 2 to 1 with negative ads and phone calls bombarding the state. But that wasn't enough to overcome SC voters unease about voting for Romney, a candidate they perceived as a moderate and one who had trouble explaining his tax issues and defending his experience as a venture capitalist.
By contrast, former Speaker Gingrich came out swinging in two debates and took his frank, serious, sometimes blunt message around the state where he connected directly to voters who saw him as a solid conservative with a record of experience in getting the right things done. Gingrich's coup de grace over Romney were his boffo performances in two debates held in the state.
South Carolina has a history of voting for the candidate who eventually goes on to clinch the nomination. And if that record holds, historians will look back at the video from Gingrich's two debates, especially the second in Charleston, and say that's where Gingrich made the sale.
Huge Win Just First Step In a Long Contest for Delegates
Compare Gingrich's sweep (right) to the Huckabee/McCain match up in 2008 (left). Gingrich's win dwarfed McCain's. In 2008 McCain received 147, 686 votes or 33%. Gingrich got 240,527 votes or 40%.
From South Carolina the campaign moves to Florida which is very different from this state and one in which Romney has a strong organizational and money advantage. It's too soon to start paying attention to the delegate count but in the end, getting the magic number of 1,144 delegates is required to win the nomination.
Newt's win is a rebuke to the negative ads and massive spending by the Romney campaign. It's an affirmation of the winning possibilities of a conservative candidate and one who can potentially unite the base of the party in ways that Romney cannot.
Newt's win means voters in the remaining 47 states that have yet to vote may have their say. That is South Carolina's gift to the nation. It's up to voters now in those other states what you do with it. Will you go with a conservative or a moderate?