Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gingrich Upsets Romney In South Carolina

No sooner had the polls closed in South Carolina than the major news networks called Newt Gingrich the big winner in tonight's critical primary election where 25 delegates are at stake over Mitt Romney, who had led in polls by a wide margin only a week ago. The Palmetto State has a perfect record to date in picking the eventual winner of the Republican nomination. Gingrich captured 40% of the vote to Romney's 28%. Rick Santorum trailed with 17% and Ron Paul finished in fourth place with 13% of the vote. Interestingly, exit polling data showed Gingrich winning big among voters who described themselves as tea party members or evangelical Christians.

Take a deep breath. I don't for one minute think Gingrich will wind up the winner of the Republican nomination. After three tests, Romney, Santorum and Gingrich each have a victory, although Gingrich's win tonight was the largest to date for any of the candidates. In the all important delegate count, Romney is leading narrowly with 31 delegates, followed by Gingrich's 26 delegates, Paul's 10 delegates and Santorum's 8 delegates. The fact remains that, unlike the campaigns of Romney and Paul, Gingrich does not have a campaign organization or money to handle the heavy schedule of upcoming primaries and caucuses. The next primary is in Florida where Romney currently has a big lead, but as we've seen tonight, Romney's support is very soft and can be challenged. Paul and Santorum aren't competitive in Florida, and Paul's campaign says he may skip the state altogether and focus on upcoming caucus votes in Nevada and Minnesota where he believes his chances are better.

Romney still has to be considered the odds on favorite. He has the money and the organization the other campaigns, except Paul, are lacking, which is critical for any candidate to win a drawn out fight for the nomination. Having said that, Paul's campaign has to be very disappointed with his poor fourth place showing tonight. A Republican presidential candidate has to have appeal among southern voters in order to win a general election. His 13% share of the vote in South Carolina suggests he will have a tough road ahead of him in the remaining primaries in the South. What tonight's upset win for Gingrich does is give pause to many prominent Republican leaders about Romney's status as the presumptive nominee. If Gingrich is able to reverse Romney's lead in Florida as he did successfully in South Carolina, then you can expect Republican leaders across the country to view Romney as the nominee with trepidation.

Pundits are already talking about the possibility of a late entrant into the presidential race, but the reality is that it is too late because any candidate entering at this late date has already missed the filing deadline to get on the ballot in many of the upcoming primary elections. What party leaders may hope, instead, is that a drawn out nomination battle may result in no candidate having a majority of the delegates by the time the convention rolls around next summer. Because delegates are being awarded proportionally instead of the winner-take-all rules of past elections, losing candidates can still win delegates as long as they are earning a significant share of the vote in the states in which they are competing. The best hope a late entrant candidate could have is a convention where no candidate has enough delegates to win on the first ballot, in which case the nomination could be opened up to other candidates. It's been a long time since either party produced a nominee through a brokered convention. The Republican Party hasn't had a brokered convention since Thomas Dewey won the nomination in 1948.


Paul K. Ogden said...

I'll be the contrarian. While Gingrich doesn't have an organization, he doesn't have a hard ceiling on his support like Romney does. Romney has the organization but he has a huge problem that offsets that. Two-thirds of Republicans utterly despise him. That's not something you can simply change by being organized. At the end of the day you have to at least have the capability of getting a signficant majority of Republican support and Romney doesn't appear capable.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Are the 2012 elections discrediting the Tea Party, exposing it as the Jerry Falwell wing of the Republican Party? In his piece on the South Carolina Primary, posted Friday at the occidental dissent website, Hunter Wallace writes what we should be doing today:

"We've been through 'the Cain Train', Rickroller Perry, Nuke Santorum, and Newt Gingrich who wanted an 'open marriage' with his second wife. The idea that these people are motivated by 'family values' and 'defense of marriage' after sticking with Cain through his fourth mistress should provoke howls of laughter should Newt win in South Carolina tomorrow."

Gary R. Welsh said...

I think Gingrich's support among tea party folks may have as much to do with their desire to stop Romney rather than supporting Gingrich. It became clear that if your goal was to beat Romney in yesterday's primary, only Gingrich was the candidate who had a realistic chance of beating Romney.

Downtown Indy said...

We'll probably see the Gingrich ethics investigation rise to the top of the news this week or next.

I am sure the smearmongers are hard at work choreographing and rehearsing their dance.

Vox Populi said...

I agree with Paul. Romney got 39% of the vote in a state where he's campaigned essentially since 2002 and where he owns a home. It also was an open primary where Democrats and Independents can request a Republican ballot. It was by most considerations his friendliest state outside Utah and probably Nevada and Idaho (large Mormon populations).

In the other two he got barely more than a quarter of the vote, which is where he's spent most of his time in the national polls. There is a very considerable anti-Romney element in the Republican Party.

As far as Gingrich's "open marriage" request, even I call bullshit on that. That's sour grapes from a scorned woman. I sincerely doubt he asked her for an "open marriage" and the media was simply trying to smear him.