Gingrich Upends Republican Race In South Carolina

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich trounced frontrunner Mitt Romney in South Carolina on Saturday in a jarring victory that indicates the party's battle to pick a challenger to President Barack Obama may last months, not weeks.

Gingrich's come-from-behind win in conservative South Carolina injects unexpected volatility into a Republican nominating race that until this week appeared to be a coronation for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and private-equity chief.

Three different candidates - Gingrich, Romney and former senator Rick Santorum - now have won the first three contests in the state-by-state battle for the Republican presidential nomination to face Obama, a Democrat, on November 6.

Gingrich's triumph may lead to a protracted battle of attrition for the Republican nomination in which the candidates expend money and energy to beat each other instead of having the party unite behind one standard-bearer focusing on Obama.

"This is the punch in the mouth/wake up call Romney needed if he wanted to be a strong general election candidate," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said in a Twitter message, referring to the South Carolina results.

Read more from Sam Younman and Steve Holland at Reuters

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Gingrich Continues To Surge In South Carolina, Projected To Win

South Carolina polls close tonight at 7:00 PM ET. The latest survey from Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is continuing to surge in the Palmetto State.

Newt Gingrich heads into South Carolina election day as the clear front runner in the state: he's now polling at 37% to 28% for Mitt Romney, 16% for Rick Santorum, and 14% for Ron Paul.

Gingrich's lead has actually increased in the wake of his ex-wife's controversial interview with ABC. Although one night poll results should always be interpreted with caution, he led the final night of the field period by a 40-26 margin. One thing that continues to work to his advantage are the debates. 60% of primary voters report having watched the one last night, and Gingrich has a 46-23 lead with those folks.

Nate Silver at the New York Times projects Gingrich to win South Carolina with 38.7% of the vote.

The FiveThirtyEight forecast model, which heavily weights the most recent polling and a candidate’s momentum, now projects Mr. Gingrich to win South Carolina by just under 10 points, forecasting him for 38.7 percent of the vote to Mr. Romney’s 29.3 percent.

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Absentee And Early Voting Hurt Gingrich's Chances In Florida

Assuming arguendo, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wins the South Carolina primary, he will be hardpressed to duplicate that victory in Florida. The Examiner's Philip Kelin explains:

Even if Newt Gingrich surges to victory in South Carolina on Saturday, his ability to take advantage of any momentum heading into Florida will be partially blunted by the fact that about 184,000 people have already voted in the Sunshine State, where Mitt Romney currently has a commanding lead. That's about 9 percent of the roughly 2 million votes expected to be cast in the January 31st primary.

So far, 174,135 absentee ballots have been returned, according to Brian Hughes, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, and an additional 9,635 votes have been cast in five counties allowing early voting.

If Gingrich wins South Carolina, tradition would dictate that he'll probably get a bounce -- but that won't be reflected in the votes that have already been cast.

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Romney's 'Prevent Defense' Strategy Boosts Gingrich In South Carolina

Everyone knows that "prevent defense" prevents you from winning the game. Clearly Team Romney has not gotten the memo and needs more seasoning before they can lay claim to the GOP presidential nomination. FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver has more:

Most football fans have learned to hate the “prevent defense,” a strategy that is employed when a team holds a lead late in the game. In theory, the strategy involves being willing to yield short completions to the offense in an effort to prevent a big gain. In reality, it seems to yield plenty of short completions — but also its share of big gains as the offense takes advantage of the soft coverage. Hence the aphorism “the prevent defense only prevents you from winning.”

Republican voters generally do like Mr. Romney, but they don’t like him so much that they’re ready to treat him as the presumptive nominee — particularly when voters in states representing 99 percent of the American population have not cast ballots yet.

In the short-run, however, I don’t think Mr. Romney has made things any easier on himself. Our forecasts now say that Mr. Gingrich has become the slight favorite to win in South Carolina. We will see whether that comes to fruition, but Mr. Romney’s prevent defense has allowed Mr. Gingrich to drive to his 30-yard line.

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Gallup: Romney's National Lead Down To 10 Points

From Gallup's Frank Newport.

Mitt Romney is a considerably weaker front-runner among Republican registered voters nationally than he was at the beginning of the week. Romney now leads Newt Gingrich by 30% to 20%, with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul tied at 13%. At the beginning of the week, Romney had a 23-percentage-point lead over Gingrich and Santorum.

Republican Preferences for 2012 GOP Presidential Nomination -- Recent Trend

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Bob McDonnell Endorses Mitt Romney: In The Nick Of Time?

As former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney continues to slide in the South Carolina primary (PPP: Gingrich up six points), Romney did receive some good news today. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell endorsed Romney's bid for the White House. Romney will dispatch McDonnell to the Palmetto State in an effort to stop the bleeding. The Associated Press has more:

Mitt Romney, struggling to remain the frontrunner in a turbulent GOP presidential primary field, won a major backer Friday in Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a rising star in his party.

Romney’s campaign announced McDonnell’s endorsement Friday morning from South Carolina, where McDonnell will join the former Massachusetts governor later in the day to campaign ahead of that state’s Saturday primary.

The endorsement of a Southern governor with solid support among social conservatives buoys Romney with Rick Santorum surging among conservatives and Texas Gov. Rick Perry announcing his support for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

For months, when pressed on his presidential preference, McDonnell had said only that he would prefer a governor. With the exit of Perry and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Romney is the lone candidate with such credentials.

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Mitch Daniels State Of The Union Response: What Will He Say?

Mitch Daniels, the wonky Indiana governor who spurned Republicans in search of a heavyweight to post up against Mitt Romney, will give the GOP's response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday.

The opportunity will allow Daniels to articulate the Republican Party's election year message following a State of the Union speech that is sure to touch on themes Obama's reelection operation will use against his Republican opponent in the general election.

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, said Daniels was a smart choice for GOP because of the party's difficulty in explaining how their policy agenda will grow the economy. Even Obama received some disapproval from Americans over his tough talk on deficit after the 2010 midterms in lieu of focusing on a jobs plan.

"GOP has had a difficult time messaging why deficit reduction, entitlement reform, tax reform and regulatory reform will promote long-term economic job growth," O'Connell said.

If Daniels gets a good response from a message about deep spending cuts and balanced budgets, the GOP presidential candidates could crib a winning general election message.

"He can provide them with a road map," O'Connell said, "if he does this right."

Read more from Dan Rivoli at International Business Times 


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Why Mitt Romney Should Welcome A South Carolina Primary Defeat

The casual political observer might think that Romney's quick-strike Republican nomination grab would leave him well positioned for a tight general election battle with President Obama. Unfortunately Mitt Romney is a little like Tim Robbins's character Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh in Bull Durham —his curve ball is hanging and his campaign doesn't seem to realize it or has yet to figure out how to fix it.

I agree with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's call to support Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary so that we can "keep this thing going." While Romney is nearly assured of winning his party's nomination, the former Massachusetts governor needs a little more seasoning in the minors before he is ready for the show.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: 'What Happened To Rick Perry?'

Several items contributed to Rick Perry’s poor showing in the Republican presidential primary highlighted by Perry’s prolific debate meltdowns which demonstrated he was not ready for prime time, despite his solid executive record of promoting job growth in the Lone Star State.

That said, timing is everything in politics and Perry’s decision to bow out before the South Carolina primary on Saturday and endorse Newt Gingrich could really help boost the former House Speaker to victory in the Palmetto State.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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PPP: Gingrich Takes The Lead In South Carolina

Saturday's South Carolina GOP presidential primary is now officially all over the place. Here's the latest from Public Policy Polling (PPP):

Newt Gingrich led Mitt Romney 34-28 in PPP's South Carolina polling last night, the first of what will be three nights of tracking.  Ron Paul at 15%, Rick Santorum at 14%, Rick Perry at 5%, and Buddy Roemer at 3% round out the field. 

This is not a case of Romney imploding.  His support has been pretty steady in the 28-30% range in our South Carolina polling so far. But Gingrich has risen from 23% to 34% over the last two weeks, benefiting from declining support for Santorum and also from undecided voters moving into his camp.

It's clear that the debate Monday night did a lot to help Gingrich's prospects in the state. 56% of voters say they watched it, and with those folks Gingrich's lead over Romney is 43-27. Romney still has a 29-22 advantage on Gingrich with those who didn't tune in.

Gingrich is clearly flying high. The big question now is whether ABC's interview with his ex-wife tonight will stifle all this momentum. For instance, will his strong support from evangelicals remain intact after they hear accusations that he wanted an 'open marriage?'

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