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Gingrich SC Victory Reopens Republican Race

Gingrich SC Victory Reopens Republican Race

By Mike Clemens

    On Saturday, January 21, Newt Gingrich won a crucial victory over the rest of the GOP flock in the South Carolina primary. The former Speaker of the House topped former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 41% to 27%. 

    Gingrich’s victory on Saturday night was the culmination of a week of political upsets, all of which weighed heavily on the future of the Republican campaign.

    A week ago, going into South Carolina, the future of the presidential race looked bleak for candidates other than Mitt Romney. Romney, who was declared the winner of both the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, was looking to wrap up the GOP nomination with a few additional victories. Eyes turned to South Carolina, and to a candidate who could stop Romney’s march to victory.

    Just before Saturday’s scheduled vote, the race underwent a series of quick, substantial changes. First, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman bowed out and threw his support behind Gov. Romney. Then, on Thursday, January 19, Texas Gov. Rick Perry left the race and endorsed Speaker Gingrich. Also coming Thursday evening was the most surprising news. The Iowa Republican Party, citing new poll information, overturned Mitt Romney’s victory in the Iowa primary and awarded it instead to Sen. Rick Santorum. Santorum finished third in South Carolina, ahead of Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

    This series of blows to Gov. Romney, followed by his second place finish in South Carolina were effective in reopening the GOP race. Romney’s initial two victories had several political analysts convinced that Romney was in a position to quickly claim the nomination by forcing his rivals out of the race. However, his setback in the first southern contest has reset the race, as well as halted Romney’s momentum.

    Gingrich’s victory was accompanied by yet more favorable news for his campaign. Historically, no GOP candidate has ever won the White House, without first claiming victory in South Carolina. Additionally, Fox News reported Saturday that in a poll conducted in South Carolinian, 51% think that Gingrich has a better chance of defeating President Obama in a general election than Mitt Romney, while only 37% of those thought that Romney is in a stronger position to defeat the President. This is a major issue in a campaign where electability has been a key talking point.   

    Romney’s loss will force him to rebuild support in the south, where Gingrich, a native Georgian, is expected to fare well in the upcoming southern primaries. Gingrich is not without a challenge going forward, however. Gov. Romney’s organization in Florida far surpasses the Speaker’s in terms of manpower and funds, which is critical in a state like Florida where campaigning is extremely expensive.