South Carolina Ended the Myth of Romney's 'Inevitability' And Other Lessons

Here are some of the things to learn from South Carolina.

  • Evangelicals went overwhelmingly for a twice divorced Catholic in the same percentage that they voted for a Baptist ordained minister in 2008. They haven’t warmed to Mitt Romney and if they haven’t warmed to him after 6 years of a campaign, they never will.

  • South Carolina, a state that has one of the nation’s highest divorce records, knows a money-grubbing, attention-seeking ex-wife (and the media that aids and abets her) when it sees one. Gingrich cleaned up among men (42%), but also women (38%). South Carolinians know a fussy hussy. Only a bully rubs salt in someone’s wounds years after they have turned to scars.

  • Mitt’s coalition in South Carolina is very worrisome for anyone hoping to win the nomination. He won those with postgraduate degrees (18 percent of the electorate), people earning $200,000 or more (5 percent), moderates (23 percent), non-evangelicals (35 percent), and pro-choicers (34 percent). If you look at the exit polls, you see the magnitude of this shellacking. Ron Paul did best with those 18-29, but only by three points over Gingrich.

  • Romney has a real problem relating to the experiences and hopes of people who are a social class below him. He’s got a real problem relating to people. He can’t connect. That’s why Romney, for awhile, refused to do media interviews, while Gingrich took them all on.

  • Romney doesn’t play as well with the independents as advertised. Gingrich took 31% of them to Romney 25%.

  • Gingrich destroyed Romney and won nearly all of the votes by ideology. He won 48% of the very conservative, compared to 19% for Mitt Romney.

  • Romney will never be negative enough to win. Romney refused to go negative against Ted Kennedy’s personal life in ’94 and even after Kennedy opened up on him about his Mormon faith, Romney told Kennedy a year later that there was no hard feelings. He doesn’t have the mean streak necessary for modern, hand-to-hand politics. When asked why he is running for office, Romney replies, “Giving back.” When Gingrich is asked, he replies to stop the socialism of Barack Obama. The first message makes you seem like a boy scout, trying to earn a merit badge; the second makes you seem like a bad ass, fighting for the survival of the republic

  • Governor Nikki Haley will begin to distance herself from Romney. She didn’t show for his speech tonight. She should have followed the lead of the other statewide candidates and declined to endorse. As Gingrich soars, fewer and fewer Republicans will endorse anyone. Note how Jeb Bush is refusing to endorse now.

  • Newt Gingrich understands how to work a system: he only needs message, message, message. He doesn’t need fancy consultants (which Romney bought), he doesn’t need money (there’s the blogosphere and sites like that help get the message out, for free), and he doesn’t need a vast organization. If people like his message, they will organize themselves. What we learned from South Carolina is that many Tea Party patriots are doing just that.

  • Exit polling suggests that the Bain attack seems to have not been as effective as was thought. It’s becoming more of a wedge issue. This is good news to those of us who despised Gingrich for waging an anti-capitalist critique. His campaign and more importantly, his Super PAC, knows how to read exit polling, too. The whole purpose of the Bain attack was to knock Mitt Romney off his talking points, not to criticize capitalism, per se.

  • Newt Gingrich is running to be prime minister of America; Mitt Romney is running to be its CEO. After years of watching C-SPAN, Americans like watching the brawls in parliament more than they like the doublespeak of corporate America.

  • All of the establishment attacks, be they from the media or the well fed right, will only make Gingrich more appealing to the Tea Party. After all, people remember and like the ’90s.

  • To those of us who have followed Mitt Romney since his Massachusetts days, we know that he does poorly in a debate. He was running neck and neck with Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts before the debates. After the two debates, Kennedy beat him by 17 points in ’94, which was a Republican year. Romney only won in 2002 because his opponent committed political suicide by favoring abortions for children. That was a bridge too far, even for the liberal voters of Massachusetts.

  • By becoming the candidate of the South, Gingrich has all but guaranteed that we will see him at the convention. Expect to see his ideas influence the election a lot more.

  • Oh, and by the way, it’s over for Rick Santorum. When the twice divorced, ethics-probed, but IRS-cleared Speaker of the House beats you among every group by values voters and you come in a distant third, it’s over.