The blood letting in South Carolina is finally over for the republicans and the results are clear. Southern conservatives don't like Mitt Romney. They really don't like Mitt Romney.
Mr. Romney was savaged in just about every demographic available. He lost the election, 40% to 28%. Then the numbers got worse. Those South Carolinians who consider themselves "very conservative" voted for Newt Gingrich 48% to 19%. The tea party crowd voted for him 45% to 25%. Finally those who identified themselves as evangelical Christians went for Gingrich 44% to 22%. Thus proving that biblical fundamentalists would rather vote for a twice divorced, admitted adulterer, than a Mormon.
This can't be reassuring to the Romney camp which is now one and three during this campaign with the one win coming within a commuter train ride of Boston, in New Hampshire.
Next up is Florida and the Romney machine is going full bore. His campaign has all ready spent $3.3 million in advertising and his Super Pac, Restore Our Future has invested $4 million. As of now no one else has spent a dime.
Florida is a wild mix of retirees, northeastern snow birds and violently anti Castro Cubans in the south and from about Orlando headed north and west into the panhandle deep Dixie rednecks. It is also a breathtaking gamble for everyone involved. It is a republican only primary and a winner take all bet. There won't be any independents muddying up the picture and no small slices of the delegate pie for the losers. It could mark the end for Santorum who polled 17% in South Carolina and should pull the plug on Ron Paul (13% in S.C.), but probably won't because Paul is Paul. The man just can't take no for an answer.
The rhetoric is just starting to ramp up. New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, a possible VP candidate with Romney, has publicly said, Gingrich "has embarrassed the republican party," reinforcing what we know all ready. The mainstream of the republican party loathes the man and wants him gone as soon as possible.
The feeling here is Romney is still the odds on favorite. The primary and caucus schedule seems to favor him. After the Florida showdown there are caucuses in Nevada and Maine. While everyone thinks of Vegas, Nevada has a huge Mormon population and Maine is a return to Romney's back yard. Then comes Arizona and significantly Michigan where Mitt's old man made a name for himself. After that it is super Tuesday which given the line up could end the deal. While Gingrich could carry Alaska, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma, he will no doubt lose in Massachusetts and Vermont. He will probably lose in Ohio, North Dakota, Idaho and Wyoming. Incredibly, he didn't even make it onto the ballot in Virginia so those delegates are lost to him also.
No matter how the long campaign lasts, Gingrich will have to continue to hammer Romney's business record. In other words try to become the anti capitalist nominee of the party that is the champion of unfettered capitalism. Who says American presidential politics doesn't have a sense of humor?
There is a long way to go and the chink in the Romney armor has been found. However the man has seemingly unlimited resources and is using all of them. The round went to Gingrich, but it appears the bout is still Mitt's to lose.