I had not planned on writing anything about South Carolina, and if you’re interested at all in politics none of this new to you by now, but the implications of Saturday’s results could be important. Even going into the weekend the conventional wisdom had Newt Gingrich winning, but of course the question then was by how much. Republican primary voters in S.C. answered (via NYT):
Yes, that is a forty percent backhanded-wallop of a victory – the first outside his home state of Georgia. The right-wing punditry is in panic-mode (again):
I’ll have more to say tomorrow about the potential for a new candidate in the race. But from the point of view of Republicans who understand just how toxic Gingrich is beyond the GOP base, the race tonight became “anybody but Newt.”
Even more revealing are the results of the exit-polls – in which Newt won the following demographics:
- Those who described themselves as Very or Somewhat Conservative
- Voters 30 years old and above
- Born-again/evangelical voters
- Voters who consider it important to have a candidate that share’s their religious beliefs.
- All income groups below 200,000K
- Voters with/without a college degree
- Those most worried about the federal budget and the economy
- Voters who want a candidate that is a true conservative, can beat Barack Obama, and has the right experience.
- Voters who want abortion to be illegal in all or most of the time.
- Those who were very or somewhat worried about the economy.
These are the categories that one would expect an eventual nominee to be able to elicit support from…except the “establishments choice” – Mitt Romney – won none of these demographics. Not one. And in some cases he didn’t even come close. Under the assumption that Romney does eventually capture the nomination, the results from South Carolina do not bode well for the general election. Of course conservative’s would be facing a much easier decision against in the fall, but that’s assuming they show up – distaste for the incumbent is not enough for a party base to deliver the presidency (cough..Kerry…cough).
Which will make the next 10 days or so very, very interesting. Florida has already been casting absentee and early-voting ballots and simultaneous polling augers well for Romney in that category. But that was before last Monday’s debate, and the delegate math still leaves the race open for a surging Newt Gingrich. The question, as it always is with Newt, is whether or not he can sustain such support (and remain disciplined in the process). Hopefully tomorrow’s NBC debate in Tampa will provide some clarity going forward.