Gingrich walks away from South Carolina as the surprise winner, embarrassing Romney and having said a lot of things he may come to regret.
It was beginning to look as though Mitt Romney was distancing himself from the rest of his Republican competitors. Just a week ago, he had “won” both Iowa and New Hampshire and was heading into South Carolina in the hopes of becoming the first candidate to win all three of the first Republican primaries. Instead, something more historic has happened – a different candidate has won all three. Romney’s distant second place finish came one day after the Iowa Republican Party announced that after counting all the votes, Rick Santorum was the official winner of the caucus.
Key to Gingrich’s victory was appealing to the more conservative elements of South Carolina’s electorate. Let’s keep in mind that Iowa was one of the first states to recognize same-sex marriages and that New Hampshire is a quasi-blue state. South Carolina’s Republican voters are easily the most conservative we have seen in this primary season and Gingrich was keen to exploit that by playing the race/hate/liberal-bashing card. This is the same Gingrich that earlier in January said he would go to the NAACP and urge blacks to demand paychecks, not food stamps. The same Gingrich who referred to Obama as the “best food stamp President in American history“. The same Gingrich who proposed that we hire children as janitors in inner-city (code word for non-white) schools.
This tactic may have worked in South Carolina, but it will not resonate as strongly in Florida, Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona and Michigan, which are all scheduled to have their respective primaries/caucuses over the next month.