UPDATE: That was an impressive win. A 14-point margin for Newt Gingrich is probably more than the former speaker could dream of a week ago, and certainly was unimagined by the Romney camp. A lot of Republican Party officials will not sleep well tonight.
The voting booths close at 7 p.m. in South Carolina, and given movement in the most recent polls, it wouldn’t be surprising if the networks name Newt Gingrich the winner shortly thereafter.
If that happens — and particularly if Gingrich can push his margin into double digits, which seems plausible — the Republicans have themselves a serious problem. Newt will come out of South Carolina with the smell of napalm in his nostrils, and we all know what napalm smells like: victory.
The greater the Gingrich margin, the more it will validate his strategy of attacking Mitt Romney on the issue of his Bain-gotten wealth. As his high-school yearbook photo tells you, this is a man with a grandiose sense of destiny, and the closer he gets to seeing it realized, the more aggressive he will become.
And as I’ve pointed out before, the Republican establishment will have only itself to blame. They have trained their base to turn up its nose at even the slightest aroma of moderation. They have fed it on resentment, and instilled it with a deep disdain for the media. In short, they have turned it into an audience utterly susceptibel to a man of Newt’s talents and eccentricities.
On the other hand, if Romney wins, this thing’s all but over. We’ll know in a few hours.
– Jay Bookman