What a turnaround! A week ago, it look like Mitt Romney was going to head into the Florida primary with three victories under his belt. Then it turned out that Rick Santorum won Iowa after all and South Carolina voters backed Newt Gingrich, delivering a message to Romney and the media: “Not so fast!”
So, for the first time in Republican history there’s been a three-way split decisionbetween Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Next up, in 10 days’ time, is Florida, where Romney holds a solid double-digit lead and has the money and organisation that should ensure he wins a large state with nine separate television markets.
Of course, Romney’s emphatic 16-point win in New Hampshire and consequent double-digit poll lead here in South Carolina should have delievered him victory tonight so no one in Romneyworld will be taking anything for granted in the Sunshine State.
What did it for Gingrich here? Two very strong debate performances were key. His best moment was his exchange with Juan Williams of Fox in Monday’s Myrtle Beach debate in which he gave full-throated voice to the conservative philosophy of self-help and free enterprise as well as casting aside political correctness and racial tiptoeing.
Then, the much-ballyhooed ABC News interview with his second wife Marianne backfired spectacularly. CNN gave Gingrich a gift by asking him about the “open marriage” allegation right at the start of Thursday’s debate in Charleston. Savaging the “liberal media” is almost invariably a winner in Republican primaries and Gingrich took full advantage.