This has not been a good week in the land of Mitt Romney. One week ago, the former Massachusetts governor was the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, the winner of both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, a historic first for a non-incumbent candidate. Romney was sitting back as his opponents dug holes for themselves, attacking what they were calling “vulture capitalism” and splitting apart the non-Romney vote into factions.
Now, things have changed. After some intense vote-counting in Iowa, Republicans there have actually awarded the win to Rick Santorum. This shift does little to change the actual delegate counts in the process, as A.) the two men essentially tied and split the delegates, and B.) Iowa’s delegates are not “pledged,” meaning that technically they can vote for whoever they want at the convention. After receiving a standing ovation in a debate kicking off South Carolina week, Newt Gingrich suddenly surged. Dropping his attacks on Romney’s Bain capital days, he focused more on jobs and the economy, making the case that Romney was too out of touch to understand the needs of South Carolinians.
Next up, Rick Perry decided to drop out of the race and endorse Gingrich. While Perry had been polling fairly dismally in the state, this move still helped to cement Gingrich’s status as the candidate with the momentum, as well as helping to coalesce some of the conservatives factions behind his campaign.
On Thursday, Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, gave an interview with ABC news, claiming that Gingrich had asked her for an “open marriage,” while he was engaged in an affair with his now-wife Callista. While some commentators suggested this late-in-the-game event would derail Newt’s building momentum in South Carolina, instead the former Speaker of the House used it to his advantage. At Thursday night’s CNN debate, after moderator John King opened with a question about the allegations, Gingrich took the opportunity to rail against what he saw as bias in the national press against the Republican candidates, and in favor of President Obama. Receiving another standing ovation, Gingrich kept scoring points on his opponents (now including the media) throughout the evening.
Mitt Romney’s week from Hell ended with Newt Gingrich winning handily the South Carolina primary, beating 2nd-place Romney by more than twelve points, 40.4% – 27.8%. Rick Santorum finished in third with 17 percent of the vote, leading Texas Congressman Ron Paul by only four points.
The Gingrich campaign has many hurdles in front of it now heading in to the Florida primary (January 31), but the Republican party is now facing a scenario it has never witnessed before: three different candidates each having won one of the first three contests.
*No apologies given for horrible puns.