Updated at 9:35 p.m. — Now, we may be cherry-picking here, but in his victory speech, Newt Gingrich seems to be getting more and more comfortable with the word “grandiosity.”
Says Gingrich: “It’s not that I’m a good debater. It’s just that I articulate the deepest values of the American people.”
But ultimately, he offered lavish praise on Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and even Mitt Romney.
Updated at 9 p.m. — Sarah Palin was featured in a quick interview with Fox News a few minutes ago. Good news for Rick Santorum: She said it wasn’t yet time for him to bow out of the contest.
Minutes later, Santorum was on the same network, noting that Mitt Romney, rather than him, should be the fellow pressed to leave the stage. “The idea that Romney is the obstacle isn’t working anymore,” he said.
Updated at 8:05 p.m. “This race is getting to be even more interesting,” Mitt Romney tells his supporters. “This is a hard fight because there’s so much worth fighting for….Tomorrow we’re going to move on to Florida.” He thanks South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – which brings up a good question. What does this mean for her? Aside from that dynamite rendition of “Happy Birthday” from Mitt.
Most of his ire was aimed at President Barack Obama. But he turned to Newt Gingrich. “The Republican party doesn’t demonize profitability. We celebrate it.” Or something close to that.
Those “Republican leaders who demonize” free enterprise “aren’t fit to be our nominee,” he said. Boom.
Updated at 7:45 p.m. — “The only question,” noted BJ VanGundy, a Gwinnett GOP activist, said at Newt Gingrich’s celebration here in Columbia, “is the spread. How big is the win?”
The general consensus is that 40 percent would be the multi-candidate equivalent of a landslide.
“Welcome South, Mr. Romney!” was the cry of Susan Meyers, another Georgian. Gingrich’s next-door contingent is quite strong at the Hilton, where the audience was waiting for a visit from the candidate that will be sooner rather than later.
State Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta, told of spending most of Friday north of Greenville, knocking on doors in the rain until he was soaked through. “Sixty percent of the people who opened the door declared for Newt,” he said.
For Gingrich to continue his success in Florida and beyond, the former U.S. House speaker will need an instant organization. Hill spoke of setting up a kind of “lightning squad” of Georgia volunteers who would be shifted from state to state as needed.
Others in the room: Randy Evans, the Atlanta lawyer and close friend of Gingrich; Matt Towery, the pollster; Maria Strollo Zack, another GOP activist from Georgia; Rufus Montgomery; Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell — and too many others to call by name.
Updated at 7:01 p.m. — Well, that was quick. Fox News just called the contest for Newt Gingrich. I’m assuming there may be a few people still waiting in line to vote. NBC News quickly followed.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Good evening from South Carolina, which tonight is likely to be the land of Newt.
It’s good to be suspicious of early exit poll leaks, but one in particular rings true – nearly half of all voters said they only made up their minds in the last few days. Which means Newt Gingrich’s two debate performances are likely to weigh heavily.
I’m looking for exit poll prognostications to come early.
I had a chat this afternoon with Rick Tyler, the former Gingrich spokesman who now is with Winning The Future, the Super PAC that has absolutely nothing to do with Gingrich. He estimated that his group dropped $3.8 million in South Carolina, primarily in TV attacks on Mitt Romney.
Romney’s Super PAC spent roughly $4.7 million, he estimated. A difference of nearly $1 million, and yet Gingrich picked up more than 20 points in the last week of the campaign – if this last round of polling is to be believed.
After tonight, Tyler said cash shouldn’t be a problem for Gingrich in the immediate future. He’s already got his plans for Florida mapped out. He intends to portray Mitt Romney as a “Charlie Crist” Republican.
Tyler said he won’t be at the Gingrich celebration next door – at the Hilton. But he asked us to bid Gingrich a good day. “Remember that I only communicate with them through the media,” he said.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider