On Saturday, Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary with a whopping 40% of the vote, defeating Romney by a 13% margin. Gingrich won all but three counties. The final tally was:
- Gingrich: 40%
- Romney: 28%
- Santorum: 17%
- Paul: 13%
- Cain: 1%
- Perry, Huntsman, Bachmann: <0.5%
Turnout in yesterday’s primaries was almost 602K, up 30% from the 2008 elections.
Devastating results in the polls cast serious doubt over Romney’s electability. Red State’s Erick Erickson writes, “The base is revolting because they swept the GOP back into relevance in Washington just under two years ago and they have been thanked with contempt ever since.” The Washington Post wrote, “Exit polls show fewer than four in 10 primary voters saying they would enthusiastically support Romney if he were the party's nominee. About one in 10 said they wouldn't back him at all. A large proportion of Paul's supporters said they wouldn't back Romney in November if he ended up as the GOP standard-bearer."
The race is not over yet. Romney’s loss was so severe that a race that looked inevitable has now been blown wide open. In the last three days, Intrade shows Mitt Romney’s probability of becoming the GOP nominee dropping from 92% to 70%, with Newt Gingrich surging from 3% to 23%.
Florida will be huge. The January 31st winner-takes-all primary in the Sunshine state matters. Although Florida lost half of it delegates because it moved its primaries before February 5, this contest will be critical. The Tampa Bay Times says Romney could still lose, “As important as money, television advertising and organization are here, momentum tends to trump everything else in widely watched presidential campaigns. Romney easily outspent and out-organized John McCain in Florida in 2008 and still lost.”
Romney’s reaction is critical. Gingrich’s attacks on Romney’s business record have taken their toll. Romney needs to come out with big attacks or a big idea to change the conversation. Romney isn’t known for his passion or ability to inspire. Does he have what it takes to reverse the tide?
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