GOP Primary after South Carolina: Three Races, Three Winners, Now What?
What a difference a day -- or 48 hours in this case -- makes. Newt Gingrich has gone supernova since his Thursday night debate performance in South Carolina, where he lambasted the media for making him address a media-revealed narrative about allegations levied by his second wife, Marianne Gingrich, that he wanted an "open marriage" to maintain his relationship with his now-third wife, Callista.
And that appears to have been that: The audience love shown to Gingrich during his five-minute diatribe against the open marriage question apparently opened the floodgate of votes, if not love, for Gingrich. He had a solid, double-digit win over Romney yesterday in South Carolina's primary. And Romney did poorly, ending up much closer to Santorum than to Newt in the final numbers as they went 40%, 28% and 17%, respectively. That floodgate extended to voter turnout, which, at 600,000, reportedly set a new record.
Gingrich even won the female vote in South Carolina, according to exit polls and despite reports to the contrary, just the day before, of a significant gender gap that should have helped Romney, if it really existed -- which it appears it did not.
And why not? For one thing, former first lady of South Carolina, Jenny Sanford, who knows a few things about politicians who cheat on their wives with mistresses with whom they get together after a divorce, spoke out very pointedly against Gingrich's character just before the primary on MSNBC's Hardball. How could that not have carried some weight with conservative female voters in South Carolina?
Then, the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley -- endorsed and supported in her 2010 race by both Jenny Sanford and Sarah Palin -- in turn endorsed Romney over a month ago. Note though that one of the most popular S.C. blogs indicates that Haley's approval might have been more of a hindrance than a help.
As for Palin, she and the former first dude, Todd Palin, have indicated -- directly or indirectly -- support for Gingrich recently. So women who watch women are getting a decidedly mixed message.
Personally, I don't get it either in regard to the women, but I'd like to see the gender breakdown, if we can, in that voter turnout: Who exactly turned out within the record numbers? Could be grasping at straws, but maybe BlogHer Red Dirt Kelly was on to something when she wrote, "Mitt Romney's Debate Conduct Makes Me Feel Icky." I feel that way when I hear Gingrich, but I don't really count in these things since I'm totally not the audience the conservatives are trying to attract.
What else made the earth move under the feet of conservative voters in S.C. last week? Rick Perry dropped out and endorsed Gingrich, Rick Santorum was declared the winner of Iowa (by 34 votes) -- and that made the primary record reflect three winners in three races.
So what's up next? First, all eyes are turning to Florida, which holds its primary on Tuesday, January 31. But already more than 200,000 absentee ballots have been returned by Republican voters, so Romney's ground game and war chest could -- could -- figure into this big time. Or not.
Overall, it's a busy week for political junkies:
- Monday night, Florida debate (2/23, NBC, 9pmEST @USF)
- Tuesday night, State of the Union (2/24, 9pmEST)
- Tuesday and Wednesday, Mitt Romney will be speaking in FL (2/24, 2/25)
- Thursday night, another debate, this time on CNN in Jacksonville (2/26, CNN)
- Tuesday, the primary election day in Florida (1/31)
You can be sure to see my Twitter stream peppered with #flprimary #gopprimary and, of course, #blogher.
For those who can't get enough:
You can watch all four candidates' speeches from last night here at Susan Duclos' post for Wake up America.
Palin4America: "What A Stomping! Gingrich Wins South Carolina!"