A Close Look at Newt Gingrich’s Landlside Victory in South Carolina

Bookmark and Share   Newt Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina was nothing less than astonishing and while it marked Newt’s second return to life during this election cycle, it hardly makes the race for the Republican presidential nomination any clearer than it was after the two previous state contests.  What it did do though was make clear that Mitt Romney has some big problems.  So does Gingrich, but Newt’s problem seems to be more with the general electorate than the Republican electorate.

Final Results for the South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary

According to a breakdown of the votes which produced an impressive 12% lead over Mitt Romney, the rival to come closest to him, in addition to so far winning 23 of the 25 delegates from the state, Newt won almost every single Republican demographic in the state.  He defeated all the other candidates among just about every voting bloc.  He took a majority of the vote among women, men, urban voters, suburban voters, voters with high school level educations and college educations, voters of all income brackets, and he even won a majority of votes among those who describe themselves not just as conservative Republicans, but even among those who describe themselves liberal Republicans.  However; Romney did beat Gingrich among self described moderates with 36% of them for Mitt,  to 31% for Newt.

Gingrich not only won a plurality of evangelical Christians, he won Catholics and Protestants, as well as both married and single voters.

The only demographics that Newt did lose were those between the ages of 18 and 29, and  those who said that a candidates religion either mattered very little in their choice of candidate, or not at all.

Ron Paul won the 18 to 29 year old age group with 32% of their vote, to 27% of their vote for Gingrich.  As seen in the table below, that 5% margin between Newt and Ron Paul tightens up in the older half of that age bracket, where 25 to 29 year olds gave Ron Paul 31% of the vote and Newt Gingrich 29% of their vote.

As for those who find little or no importance in a candidate’s sharing similar religious beliefs with them, Mitt Romney beats Gingrich by anywhere from 3 to 10%, as seen below;

The only real significance that can be found within those numbers have less to do with Romney and Gingrich, and more to do with Rick Santorum.

Last week, 150 national evangelical leaders gathered in Texas and decided to endorse Rick Santorum.  Their hope was to essentially unite the evangelical vote behind one of Mitt’s Romney’s rivals in an attempt to deny Romney the ability to win the nomination.  As I predicted at the time, the move did not work.  Clearly, evangelical voters said those 150 religious leaders can do what they want, because they were going to do their own thing.  In this case, they went for Newt, not Santorum.  As I stated at the time, those evangelical leaders did more harm to their cause than good. In addition to looking unorganized, they now look powerless and have diminished the amount of clout that their future endorsements may carry.

Meanwhile, while Ron Paul narrowly defeated Gingrich among the younest voters, who accounted for 9% of the total vote in South Carolina, he quite surprisingly lost two groups that he desperatley needed for a strong showing.

One of those groups were Independents.

South Carolina’s open primary system allows Independents to vote in the Republican primary.  This was the case in  Iowa and New Hampshire too, and in both those states, Independent voters were in fact the main reason Ron Paul did as well as he did in those states.  I have often stated, if left up to Republicans, Ron Paul is nothing but a second tier candidate and exit polls in South Carolina supported that conclusion.  But in addition to receiving the least support from Republicans, Ron Paul also lost the Independent vote. And not just to Newt Gingrich, but to Mitt Romney as well.

Among Independents, Gingrich beat Paul by 7%, and Mitt Romney beat Paul by 1%.

Another big defeat for Ron Paul was his loss of the military vote.

Ron Paul prides himself on a statistic which he uses to claim that he receives more support from our military service members, than any other candidate.  Paul likes to make this claim because he believes that his statistic regarding fundraising from servicemen and women, provides him cover for his reckless and dangerous isolationist foreign and national defense policies.  The suggestion is that if the military supports him more than any other candidate, they must like his defense and foreign policies and therefore, they are good policies.

If such were really the case though, South Carolina would be extremely fertile territory for Ron Paul to pull off an electoral coup in.  With several substantial military installations in the state, South Carolina has one of the largest active duty and veteran populations in the nation.  Between that and the state’s open primary system which allows Independents and even Democrats to vote in the Republican primary, if Ron Paul could win any state, South Carolina is that one.  But in addition to losing the Independent vote, Ron Paul also lost the military vote.  And not just by a little and not just to Newt Gingrich.  He lost to Rick Santorum by 4%, Mitt Romney by 20%, and Newt Gingrich by a whopping 27%.

In general, while the results were incredibly good for Newt in South Carolina, they were actually very embarrassing for Ron Paul.

All in all, these numbers help to establish that Newt Gingrich is most certainly a serious threat to Mitt Romney.

While South Carolina is not a the most accurate example of national consensus, it is a relatively good representative picture of national Republican sentiments and an even better predictor of Republican presidential nominees.  But if nothing else, it is a an excellent indicator of how tough it may be for Romney to survive the Southern primaries.

Florida will be the real test for both Romney and Gingrich though.

If there is any Southern state which Romney has an excellent chance of winning, it is Florida.

Florida, may be very Republican, and very conservative, but it has a significant Jewish population. The largest Jewish population in all the South.  That voting bloc tends to be more moderate and liberal, and therefore perfect prospective supporters of Mitt Romney, the man Newt describes as a “Massachusetts moderate”.   In the general election, this Jewish vote in Florida will be critical to winning the state and the presidency, and if recent history is any indication, they may easily be persuaded to vote Republicans, or at least against President Obama.

Several months ago, in a special election to replace disgraced New York liberal Congressman Anthony Weiner, a Republican won that heavily heavily Jewish congressional seat which crosses New York City’s counties of Brooklyn and Queens.  It is a district which has been in Democrat hands for practically a hundred years, yet thanks to a Jewish vote that is very unhappy with President Obama and his policies with Israel and his horrible treatment of Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, Jewish voters elected a relatively conservative, Republican to replace Anthony Weiner.

This all means that the Jewish vote will be quite important and in Florida, it could make the difference between winning and losing in the primary between Mitt and Newt, and winning and losing in the general election between President Obama and whoever the eventual Republican presidential nominee is.

If Newt were smart, he would be headed for Florida right now and direct his campaign operatives to focus in on the Jewish vote and accentuate what is Newt’s very real, very pro-Israel policy record.  As Speaker of the House, Newt accumulated an extremely powerful and very lengthy, positive record on Israel, and that record could provide the margin of victory for Newt over Mitt in Florida.

If Newt can prevent Mitt Romney from winning Florida, he will have a better than 50-50 chance at becoming the Republican nominee. The numbers behind the numbers  in South Carolina, support that.  But in order for Newt to reach those odds, he will have to undermine Romney’s strengths in the Sunshine State.  One of them is money.  Another is organization, and the other is the moderate and liberal element of the Republican Party.  Newt will have the support of conservatives and evangelicals, so long as he does not start attacking from the left again.  All he needs is to win over enough of the moderates to prevent Mitt from getting another Santorum-like 34 vote victory and his uphill battle for the big prize will get a lot less steeper.

For a more comprehensive look at the numbers behind the final election numbers you can visit here .

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