Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary on Saturday night and according to exit polling data compiled by CBS, 2/3 of South Carolina voters said that the debates were an important factor to them in their final decision at the polls today:
“Sixty-four percent said the debates were an important factor for them; just 34 percent said they were not. Gingrich won standing ovations in both debates while Romney often struggled - and at one point received a smattering of boos for equivocating over how many years of his tax returns he would release.”
“Gingrich, who polls suggest overtook Romney in the final days before today’s primary, is hoping for a victory that would keep Romney from locking up the nomination before the end of the month. A majority of voters - 53 percent - said they made up their mind about who to back within the last few days.”
“The exit poll data showed that South Carolina voters overwhelmingly cited the economy as the most important issue, with 61 percent citing it. (The economy was the top issue in Iowa and New Hampshire as well.) It was followed by the federal budget deficit (23 percent), abortion (8 percent) and health care (4 percent). Seventy-eight percent of voters in South Carolina, where the unemployment rate is 9.9 percent, said they are “very” worried about the nation’s economy.”
GOP voters in South Carolina saw highlights of notable Gingrich debate clips, where he went after the media rerun on their local news affiliates and cable news outlets. At the same time, they also saw Gingrich go after former Governor Mitt Romney for not releasing his tax returns yet. Mr. Gingrich successfully changed the GOP campaign narrative that he was “attacking capitalism.”
Speaker Gingrich received an uproarious crowd response at the Republican debate in Myrtle Beach, when he responded forcefully to Fox News analyst Juan Williams. Mr. Williams asked Gingrich if he understood that the speaker’s previous remarks regarding impoverished children with no work ethic who should be working as school janitors was considered offensive to a number of blacks.
“No, I don’t see that,” Gingrich snapped back. Mr. Gingrich then went on to say, “And if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.”
Later in the week at the debate in Charleston, Mr. Gingrich, who was embroiled in a controversy dealing with scandalous he said/she said details from his former wife Marianne. Marianne Gingrich gave ABC’s Brian Ross an interview, which aired on Thursday.
CNN Moderator John King led the GOP debate in Charleston with a question about ABC interview and asked Mr. Gingrich if he would like to first respond to the allegations that he asked his second wife for an “open marriage.”
“No, but I will,” Gingrich first said. Mr. Gingrich then went on to say, “Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things.”
“To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine,” he angrily said.
As I mentioned in a previous piece, Mr. King may have very well helped Mr. Gingrich as did Juan Williams to act as foils to Mr. Gingrich and help fire up the conservative base to come out to the polls in South Carolina and vote for Mr. Gingrich.