Prior to last week, major media outlets, political pundits and analysts had the Republican race called for front-runner Mitt Romney. The South Carolina primary has changed everything and the media is in a tail spin.
Newt Gingrich won the primary by taking 40.4% of the vote and all but a handful of the counties. Romney’s poor 27.8% showing resulted in him losing to the former House speaker despite having held a double-digit lead in polls the previous week.
The loss is easier to explain than some in the media would like to believe – Newt is connecting to voters in a way the Mitt Romney has, so far, failed to do.
South Carolina Republican strategist Chip Felkel said,”Nobody’s really for Mitt Romney. Romney has never generated that kind of enthusiasm, and I’m not sure he’s capable of generating that kind of enthusiasm.”
The last two debates before the polls opened showed Romney to be unprepared to handle questions on his tax returns and lacking any fire on core issues. Mitt’s exchanges with John King and Juan Williams illustrated a fighting spirit necessary to deal with the well-funded media-darling Barack Obama.
Sunday morning saw the media trying to comprehend what had occurred. While predictions had been for a Gingrich win in South Carolina, no one had expected the landslide victory that Newt’s campaign had pulled off.
In an effort to create a parallel between Gingrich and Romney on elitism and tax returns, ABC news said “Gingrich, who made more than $3 million in 2010, per his tax return, repeatedly berated Washington and New York “elites.”
Fox News Contributor Sally Kohn said that “Newt is the most un-electable candidate in history” and that Gingrich “created most of the problems” in Washington D.C.
The Daily Beast slung an oddly-worded slam at Gingrich saying that “the level of nontraditionalness on display [at Newt’s campaign events is], to borrow a phrase, utterly profound—so profound, frankly, that it makes it hard to imagine Gingrich ever really being able to ramp up and go toe to toe with President Obama’s ultrasophisticated reelection operation.”
Non-traditionalness?? Mr. Romano (the author), are you sure that’s a negative?
He has also been largely snubbed by the GOP establishment; while prominent Republicans are steadily coming out of the woodwork in favor of Romney, Gingrich has benefited far less from the support of party leadership.
The Republican establishment and Conservative commentators such as Ann Coulter have been firmly behind Mitt Romney, but that’s not the negative for Gingrich that they would have you believe. Prior to the recount in Iowa, many voters felt that their candidate was being picked for them by the media and the party elite – much like what happened to them in 2008 with John McCain. Romney was predicted to run the first three primaries and be largely unopposed in Florida – which would have all but ended the race for the nomination. Instead, the electorate seems to be searching for anyone but that kind of candidate . Anyone but that middle-of-the-road, dispassionate, out-of-touch establishment-approved candidate. Anyone, but Romney.
Santorum took Iowa, Romney won New Hampshire and Gingrich has taken South Carolina. More important to understanding the future are the trends. Everyone except Gingrich is watching support drain away as the weeks press on – a trend with which the media and party leadership may not be pleased and appear to be working hard to reverse.