If news networks’ projections are to be believed, Newt Gingrich has just won the 2012 South Carolina Republican primary, making him the third candidate in the party’s narrowing presidential field to have won a nominating contest this month. As pundits on cable television are noting, never before have Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina Republicans each picked a different Republican as their top choice for the nomination before. That means history is being made tonight.
Gingrich’s victory, if confirmed by the actual results, would be a huge boost to his campaign heading into the Florida primary on January 31st. Gingrich finished behind most of his remaining rivals in both Iowa and New Hampshire, but stayed in the race and now appears to have reaped the rewards of being persistent.
Polling done within the last few days indicated that Gingrich’s campaign was gaining momentum, leading many pundits to speculate that he might win tonight. The former speaker, who was sacked by his own party after the 1998 midterms, turned in a fierce debate performance on Thursday night and also benefited from the endorsements of Rick Perry and Sarah Palin.
The race is expected to immediately shift to Florida, one of the nation’s most populous states, beginning tomorrow. The four major candidates still in the race (Gingrich, Romney, Santorum, and Paul) have all agreed to a debate on Monday night in Tampa, the host city for the 2012 Republican National Convention.
UPDATE, 4:39 pm: Very few votes have actually been tallied and reported yet. Notice how small the statewide numbers are… no candidate has more than 1,000 votes, and Romney currently has the lead (which probably won’t be the case in a few hours). No precincts have fully reported yet. These are very early numbers!
|Michele Bachmann||0.20%||4 votes|
|Herman Cain||0.61%||12 votes|
|Newt Gingrich||25.18%||497 votes|
|Jon Huntsman||1.98%||39 votes|
|Gary Johnson||0.05%||1 vote|
|Ron Paul||9.32%||184 votes|
|Rick Perry||2.18%||43 votes|
|Mitt Romney||47.67%||941 votes|
|Rick Santorum||12.82%||253 votes|
UPDATE, 5:29: Here’s where the race stands now, with 148 of 2,130 precincts reporting. Gingrich appears to be building something of a commanding lead.
|Michele Bachmann||0.10%||44 votes|
|Herman Cain||1.38%||600 votes|
|Newt Gingrich||37.21%||16,201 votes|
|Jon Huntsman||0.34%||148 votes|
|Gary Johnson||0.03%||13 votes|
|Ron Paul||14.12%||6,146 votes|
|Rick Perry||0.59%||258 votes|
|Mitt Romney||27.37%||11,917 votes|
|Rick Santorum||18.86%||8,212 votes|
UPDATE, 5:38 PM: The mood at FreeRepublic, a popular hangout for movement conservatives, seems pretty jubilant tonight. Here’s a sampling of the comments:
And that happened because people vote for ideas that appeal to their aspirations, hopes and dreams.
This is Newtastic!
— by Vendome
Open Message to Rove and the GOP: Romney is a fake robotic Ken doll that stutters and needs to give up running already.
— by Dubya-M-DeesWent2SyriaStupid!
Newt… Newt… Newt .……Thank You God for answering our prayers!!!!!!!
— by SweetCaroline
Outstanding. And I hope Santorum comes in second and beats Romney, too. Rick can come off like a stiff…but he is a man of his convictions. It’s a shame the earlier debates didn’t give him as much facetime as the most recent one. We’ll see how the vote totals come in…
— by SueRae
There seems to be plenty of anti-Romney sentiment on other national conservative blogs and forums as well. They’re the only two candidates left that the Republican base seems to be rallying around. Ron Paul has his own constituency (libertarians) but that group only ascribes to some right wing values, not all.
Whether Santorum will have the resources to vigorously contest Florida remains to be seen. But Gingrich will be landing in the Sunshine State with a burst of momentum following his apparent victory tonight.
As long as Gingrich can battle to a draw in Florida, he’ll be well positioned to move on to Maine and Nevada, which hold caucuses on February 4th.
UPDATE, 7 PM: 1,516 of 2,130 precincts reporting in. Gingrich is clearly the winner. He’s been gaining all night and will finish with more than 40% of the vote.
|Michele Bachmann||0.08%||323 votes|
|Herman Cain||1.12%||4,447 votes|
|Newt Gingrich||39.39%||156,940 votes|
|Jon Huntsman||0.18%||720 votes|
|Gary Johnson||0.03%||134 votes|
|Ron Paul||13.56%||54,026 votes|
|Rick Perry||0.44%||1,740 votes|
|Mitt Romney||27.29%||108,720 votes|
|Rick Santorum||17.92%||71,407 votes|
Note that Herman Cain — the former Godfather’s Pizza executive — is getting more votes than Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, and Jon Hunstman combined. If you’re wondering why, it’s probably because of this.