Gingrich victory a shock for Romney

South Carolina Primary * Gets 12 per cent lead after backing of evangelical Christians

Written by Agencies | Charleston | Published: January 23, 2012 1:02:04 am

In the heart of the Bible Belt,Newt Gingrich,the winner of Saturday’s South Carolina primary,evoked comparisons to a familiar scriptural tale: Lazarus,the man who rose from the dead.

Only a week ago,many pundits had written off Gingrich’s chances in South Carolina,with Mitt Romney carrying a sizeable lead in early polling. Gingrich’s miraculous turnaround shocked many political observers and party favourite Romney. Surprising his rivals and scrambling the Republican race for the presidency,Newt Gingrich won the pivotal South Carolina primary,just 10 days after a distant finish in New Hampshire.

With tallies showing Gingrich beating Romney by a 40 to 28 per cent margin,it was no small win. Exit polls showed Gingrich had done it with a formidable coalition of groups that have resisted Romney’s candidacy all election season long: evangelical Christians,Tea Party supporters and those who call themselves “very conservative.”

Gingrich now heads to Florida,where he faces a daunting test in seeking to capitalise on his new status as the candidate who poses a singular,insurgent threat to Romney. He used his victory speech to cast himself as the champion of the party’s anti-establishment wing,reprising his popular castigation of the news media and other “elites” while keeping his focus on the defeat of President Obama.

Standing beside his wife,Callista,as he addressed an exuberant crowd in Columbia,Gingrich attributed his victory to “something very fundamental that I wish the powers that be in the news media will take seriously: Americans feel that they have elites who have been trying for a half-century to force us to quit being American and become some kind of other system.”

With a third-place finish here,former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania,said he,would carry on to Florida. It was a disappointing night for Santorum. He was hoping to use his newly declared victory in Iowa,and his expected appeal to religious conservatives in the state,to be the leading challenger to Romney. The campaign of Representative Ron Paul of Texas,who came in fourth,indicated it intends to work lightly in Florida and focus instead on races in Western and Mountain states.

Florida next
Mitt Romney faces his next challenge in the January 31 contest in Florida. It is a state with a more diverse,moderate electorate that may play to his strengths. On Sunday,Romney told Fox News he will release his 2010 tax returns and 2011 tax estimates Tuesday,and said the focus on the issue had become a distraction. Reuters

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