Down to the Wire: Gingrich Pulls Ahead of Romney in South Carolina

by on December 14th, 2014
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Just hours before the voting beings in the all-important South Carolina primary and it appears that the former underdog-turned-frontrunner-turned underdog Newt Gingrich is back on top. The latest polls in the Palmetto State suggest that the former House Speaker has a six point lead over his closest rival Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, the remaining two G.O.P. challengers, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, remain far behind.

Let’s take a look at what this new information could mean to the race for the Republican Party’s nomination:

If Gingrich can pull out a victory in South Carolina what would happen next?

It would be easier to know what would happen if Gingrich loses the race in South Carolina. By his own admission, if he can’t beat Romney on Saturday then he would be finished. Perhaps if he makes it a close race–and by all accounts right now it seems certain to be a close race–than perhaps he would soldier on at least to Florida for the January 31 primary there. But a clear second-place finish would likely hand the nomination to Romney.

It is difficult to tell right now if a Gingrich win in South Carolina would be a real game-changer or just a mirage. The latest polls from Florida, taken earlier this week, still have Romney far ahead in the Sunshine State so even if Gingrich were to squeak out a victory in South Carolina it’s uncertain how far his new momentum would take him.

One thing is certain, however. If Gingrich does win in South Carolina Saturday his campaign will have a renewed drive and he would be certain to make it a much more interesting–and important–primary in Florida, if not beyond to Nevada and elsewhere.

Is it a two-person race now or is there still hope for Rick Santorum and Ron Paul?

Despite the revelation from Iowa this week that he actually won the caucus there earlier this month, and despite his endorsement last weekend from a series of evangelical groups, Santorum seems to be in a tailspin. The latest polls from South Carolina have him dead last at 11 percent. This is a slight drop from where he was earlier this month after doing so well coming out of Iowa. Barring some last-minute, Tim-Tebow-style miracle Santorum’s campaign appears dead, and it would seem likely that he would drop out perhaps as early as Sunday or Monday.

As for Ron Paul, few candidates have been as consistent as he has during any election cycle. His numbers in South Carolina have essentially remained the same for most of the month, a respectable 13 – 15 percent or so. The problem, however, is that he simply can’t get enough of the base behind him to build any steam and grow his numbers. There’s little question that Paul will remain in the race for the long haul but his ability to win is basically nonexistent.


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